Pierre Sladden – from contractor to ‘Big Brother’ in hiding hospital kickbacks

The Vitals Global Healthcare/Steward magisterial inquiry has identified Pierre Sladden and Adrian Hillman as the conduits for layering the kickbacks from public funds intended for Malta’s hospitals. Sladden was among the 14 people who appeared in  Court on Tuesday to face criminal charges.

Sladden, described by the inquiry as “a significant person”, is a contractor from Xgħajra who made headlines as the contractor tasked by The Times of Malta for its now defunct €30 million printing press project in Mrieħel to turn a supermarket into its headquarters, with a ‘state of the art’ printing press.

During a raid at his residence and the offices of his company, RedMap Projects, investigators discovered that with the help of Technoline’s Ivan Vassallo, The Times of Malta managing director Adrian Hillman, and Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna, Sladden facilitated the laundering of public funds, channelling them to Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, among others.

The web unearthed by the inquiry

The inquiry details the connections between Schembri, Hillman, and Sladden. It was found that their collaboration started before the 2013 general elections and was connected to The Times of Malta’s multi-million printing press project.

Sladden, Schembri, and Hillman owned a Cyprus-based company called A2Z Consulta. This company was jointly owned by three British Virgin Island offshore companies, each owned by Schembri, Sladden, and Hillman. A2Z Consulta Limited generated revenues of over €300,000 from Redmap.

Investigators were puzzled by Sladden sharing Redmap’s profits with Hillman and Schembri but determined it was linked to The Times of Malta project.

“In our opinion, such an arrangement would make sense if Sladden and Redmap became involved in The Times of Malta building project only with Hillman’s permission and Schembri’s influence,” the inquiry states.

Brian Tonna of Nexia BT applied the same model he arranged for The Times of Malta project to the hospitals’ concession.

While on paper, Ivan Vassallo appeared as the owner of Technoline, Sladden and Hillman were inserted as shareholders in other companies, including Gateway Solutions, to be able to buy Technoline.

The money – €5 million to buy the medical supplies company – came directly from the hospitals’ concession, as Vitals Global Healthcare had no funds until it started receiving millions from the government.

“Concealing Gateway/Technoline’s ownership through the use of third-party nominee shareholders and private shareholder agreements placed sufficient distance between Schembri and Mizzi while they were still able to influence the government’s policy and decision-making directly,” the inquiry noted.

Just after Technoline’s takeover was finalised, Vitals Global Healthcare issued an exclusive contract to make the private medical supplier its exclusive and only medical equipment supplier to the hospitals’ concession, thus guaranteeing millions would be funnelled through this arrangement.

The inquiry also found that Sladden was also involved in facilitating kickbacks related to the building of the Barts Medical School, an Anatomy Centre in Gozo, and the Paola Primary Healthcare Hub. The latter was within the political remit of Minister Chris Fearne and his FMS CEO, Carmen Ciantar.

Meanwhile, the Italian contractor Sirimed, tasked with building the three projects by VGH or Technoline, paid Accutor AG €500,000 in August 2018 under the guise of consultancy services. According to the inquiry, these were Barts Medical School project kickbacks.

Accutor AG is the company that later hired disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat as a consultant.

“Ivan Vassallo, Natale Inturri (Sirimed) and Pierre Sladden, collectively called the ‘Malta Trilogy’ (the name of a WhatsApp group they had together) – discussed and organised documents for a kickback payment from Sirimed to Accutor AG,” the inquiry states.

“Within the group chat, Pierre Sladden was nicknamed ‘Big Brother’, but mostly, he remained silent. We therefore suspect Mr Sladden’s function in the group may have been that of an observer who would report the group’s activity and progress to a higher authority,” the investigators concluded.

Sladden and Canberra House

Pierre Sladden was a familiar sight in the corridors of The Times of Malta when Adrian Hillman was its Managing Director.

Sladden would spend hours inside Hillman’s office. Sladden was the main contractor tasked with multi-million-euro infrastructural projects to transfer the newspaper’s printing press from Valletta’s Strickland House to a former supermarket building in Mrieħel.

In 2015, Allied Newspapers, the shareholder of The Times of Malta, sold its iconic Canberra House in Valletta’s St Paul’s Street to Castille Investments Ltd, with Pierre Sladden as the majority shareholder.

The deal for the large property adjacent to Castille was concluded for just €2 million, although its market value was deemed to be much higher.

Later, following another magisterial inquiry, Adrian Hillman, Vince Buhagiar, and Michael Rizzo, in his capacity as Managing Director of Progress Press, were charged in court with money laundering and fraud.

                           

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Noel Ciantar
Noel Ciantar
26 days ago

Redmap Projects Limited. The company whose name was mentioned in the Panama Papers and which was responsible for the construction of the “matrimonial home” of Malta’s Foreign Affairs Minister and current OSCE Chair Ian Borg.

Borg published in Parliament his contract with Redmap. It was signed in October 2015, while there were two ongoing investigations about the development permit for his “home.”

In November 2015 the constitutional Office of the Ombudsman concluded one of the investigations, and in a very damning report it stated, among other serious matters, that the permit was issued after a “grave error” on the part of the Planning Authority, and recommended the review of the permit. After the Authority failed to review the permit, the Ombudsman wrote to the then Prime Minister Joseph Mvscat requesting his involvement as allowed by law, but Mvscat ignored the recommendations of the Ombudsman.

In December 2015, the Commission Against Corruption concluded the other investigation, and in its conclusions it accepted the conclusions of the Ombudsman.

Despite the conclusions of the two investigations, and despite the mention of Redmap in the Panama Papers in early 2016, Borg continued with Redmap’s services and built his property as per the disputed permit.

Last edited 26 days ago by Noel Ciantar
Alfred Debono
Alfred Debono
26 days ago

When will the dirt end? Do we really want this country of ours to keep sinking in the mud because of a number of thieves?

Michael Satariano
Michael Satariano
26 days ago

“While on paper, Ivan Vassallo appeared as the owner of Technoline, Sladden and Hillman were inserted as shareholders in other companies, including Gateway Solutions, to be able to buy Technoline.”

According to MBR filings, The original shareholder of Gateway Solutions Limited (C 49432) was Odette Vassallo who transferred the entire shareholding to Ivan Vassallo on 15.07.2014

On 03.02.2021 Ivan Bartolo pledged the entire shareholding of Gateway Solutions Limited to Steward Healthcare International Limited.

There does not seem to be any additional filings at MBR concerning Gateway Solutions Limited. It does not seem that any alleged share transfers in Gateway Solutions Limited to Pierre Sladden or Adrian Hillman were registered with MBR.

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