Adrian Hillman: Far more deeply embedded than we thought

The hospitals inquiry report concludes Hillman was a front for Schembri for companies planning to profit from services paid by taxpayers.

 

Aqra bil-Malti

The Panama Papers revelations made the former managing director of Allied Newspapers Adrian Hillman’s involvement with disgraced former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri apparent, but the hospitals’ inquiry discovered evidence that Hillman was far more deeply embedded in Schembri’s operations than previously thought.

While the Panama Papers revealed Hillman conspiring with Schembri to buy a printing machine for some €30 million – a project that brought The Times of Malta to its knees financially, while those involved allegedly pocketed kickbacks through offshore companies – the hospitals’ inquiry brought together the web engaged in both the sale of buildings owned by Allied Newspapers in Valletta and the efforts made by the same group of people to make millions off what taxpayers were paying the hospitals concession.

The concession refers to Hillman and Pierre Sladden of Redmap acting as liaisons for Schembri while he was supposed to be focused on running the country. Instead, at every turn, Schembri made efforts to profit from the deal in every aspect, from cancer facility equipment to property rentals to catering.

Schembri’s companies made millions, and Hillman and Sladden were among the primary enablers, according to the magisterial inquiry. Meanwhile, the public hospitals’ deal was not delivering results.

Footage captured by reporters in January 2023 shows that large parts of St. Luke’s Hospital still lie in disrepair. Photo: OCCRP / Daphne Foundation.

The problem with what the inquiry report states about Hillman shows his actions helped cripple The Times of Malta. Allied Newspapers had to sell its Valletta properties to make up for the loss of investments that Hillman presented to the board of directors as a vision for the future of the paper.

Investigators concluded: “What, in our opinion, would make sense of the arrangement would be if Sladden and Redmap (Sladden’s company) became involved in The Times of Malta building project only with the permission of Hillman and the influence of Schembri.”

The inquiry report and several other press investigations showed that Hillman was working with Sladden and Schembri, allegedly pocketing hundreds of thousands of euro.

At the same time, the newsroom in Valletta was put on austerity measures, weakening the journalists’ ability to conduct investigations at a critical time when its management was under scrutiny due to the Panama Papers leak.

The company conducted its own investigation, but the report was never published or shared with the newsroom.

The investigators point out that “Adrian Hillman is of interest to this inquiry due to his association with people and entities that are suspected of using the hospital concession funds illicitly for their own gain… He is currently charged in Malta with various financial crimes, including bribery and money laundering.”

Adrian Hillman was also instrumental in validating and introducing Ram Tumuluri, the front for Vitals Global Healthcare awarded the concession, to Ivan Vassallo. This ultimately led to Technoline being chosen as a preferred supplier to VGH after the concession was awarded, the inquiry notes.

A lone hospital bed frame in an abandoned room in St. Luke’s hospital. Photo: OCCRP / Daphne Foundation.

The Shift revealed in 2019 that over €5 million of taxpayer funds was used by companies set up by VGH in Jersey to transfer the funds. Vassallo was a sales and marketing manager at Technoline before he suddenly acquired the millions needed to take over the company.

Once Technoline was bought, they proceeded to give the company decision-making power on services to the hospitals, placing all other competition at a disadvantage and maximising the profits from services the hospitals required.

Apart from Technoline, other companies are listed in the inquiry report in which Hillman was involved as either a front for Schembri or passing on information to him, including Gateway Solutions Ltd, MMXVI Ltd, Eurybates Ltd, and Astromedic Ltd.

All these companies, in some way or other, tried to siphon public funds intended for the hospitals.

Investigators concluded: “In our opinion, Adrian Hillman’s knowledge and involvement in Technoline and Gateway and with Ivan Vassallo and Ram Tumuluri places him as a trusted party in the ensuing illicit activity concerning these parties. It is also prescient that Ivan Vassallo felt he could drop Keith Schembri’s name into communications about these matters, which would further confirm Hillman’s trusted status.”

Once Technoline was purchased, they attempted to involve another company, Gateway Solutions Ltd (worthless at the time).

“Prior to 2015, Gateway Solutions Limited was a valueless IT company with little or no prospect for profitable growth. It did not operate in the pharmaceutical or medical supply sector. In July 2015, Ivan Vassallo and his four associates, Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Adrian Hillman and Pierre Sladden, began to take steps that would see Gateway enter the pharmaceutical and medical supply sector and lead it to acquire Technoline Limited.

On 3 April 2016, Ivan Vassallo emailed Adrian Hillman the latest version of the VGH/Gateway agreement; Hillman forwarded the email to Keith Schembri, who in turn forwarded it to Shaukat Ali. Adrian Hillman also provided Keith Schembri with Ivan Vassallo’s instructions and administration for the purchase by Gateway of Technoline’s shares. It would appear, therefore, that Adrian Hillman was used as a proxy to receive and send emails between Ivan Vassallo and Keith Schembri,” investigators concluded.

The inquiry identified Hillman, Vassallo and Sladded as freemasons.

On New Year’s Eve 2015, Vassallo emailed Hillman to reflect on the year: “I have it in mind that you will agree that 2015 was a rather exciting time. I, for one, found it so. What makes it especially memorable is my new acquaintance with you. I consider it a real privilege for our circles to have intersected so. And may I observe that more than an intersection, it is a congruence.

I especially value your incisive and analytical character. I am sure these attributes will result in a realistic and beneficial synergy that will be tough to beat. Please accept my unqualified regards and my very best wishes to you and yours for all the joy, health and prosperity in the year ahead.”

Whether they will continue to reap the benefits of this “beneficial synergy” remains to be seen. All are facing criminal charges in court.

                           

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19 Comments
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jingo
jingo
15 days ago

For those in the know, it has been funny to see the Times ranting away!
Holier than thou, rings a bell?

Last edited 15 days ago by jingo
Pony Express
Pony Express
15 days ago

“For all the joy, health and prosperity in the year ahead”.
Mela mhux hekk hux….joy health prosperity…minn fuq dahar il-poplu Malti. Kif ma jisthux imma?

Pamela Hansen
15 days ago

No wonder Adrian wanted to get rid of me

Luciano Borg
Luciano Borg
14 days ago
Reply to  Pamela Hansen

Kellek xi dubju?

simon oosterman
simon oosterman
15 days ago

Rest assured that the PC and AG will do everything in their power to make them enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Lawrence Mifsud
Lawrence Mifsud
15 days ago

….party.

Charles
Charles
15 days ago

So when is the magistrate going to demand the surrender of these crooks’ passports and to post a few million in bail? A small time developer last week was arraigned for defrauding 25 people. He had over one million of his assets frozen… he has to report to the police every day and he cannot leave Malta until his court case! Muscat and the other crooks are accused of defrauding the whole population of Malta and Gozo of 400 million and they’re still going and coming overseas at their leisure… and muscat with a Diplomatic passport!!

wenzu
wenzu
14 days ago
Reply to  Charles

Just goes to demonstrate how the weasel Muscat has so many people in his pocket and is able to pull all their strings.

Toninu
Toninu
14 days ago
Reply to  Charles

The commissioner is awaiting his reinstatement to react. Give him few days and these mafia people will all be brought to justice. Anyone betting.

Leonard EllBon
Leonard EllBon
14 days ago
Reply to  Toninu

I wouldn’t hold my breath to that if l were you. The commissioner is in cohort with them all.

Carmelo borg
15 days ago

Min jaf kemm jiddispjacihomil familja DEMARCO li dahlitu fit times

Sim72
Sim72
13 days ago
Reply to  Carmelo borg

Are you sure about that?

Valhmor Zammit
Valhmor Zammit
15 days ago

These are vile, criminal persons. Their only place of residence should be the CCF. Mind you, when they’re locked away ,the key is to be thrown away in the depths of the Atlantic ocean!

Robert pace bonello is
Robert pace bonello is
14 days ago

Regarding Allied Newspapers, where was the BOARD OF DIRECTORS. Were they asleep, careless or, dare I say, complicit.

Sim72
Sim72
13 days ago

Exactly my thoughts? Were they so incompetent? And what about the financial controller, internal audit, procurement, and similar functions? They all failed in their duty to safeguard the company.

wish
wish
14 days ago

Something was wrong with TOM way back in 2013 and there is still something going on when one considers what comments are removed and what comments are allowed. Mabel Strickland would be turning in her grave.

There is no real balance. Strings are still being pulled at TOM.

Salvu Felice-Pace
Salvu Felice-Pace
13 days ago
Reply to  wish

Before the 2013 elections I had a series of articles sent to The Times. None appeared when previously all the articles I sent were published, some put in the Talking Point feature..

Sim72
Sim72
13 days ago
Reply to  wish

Kurt Sansone, Ariadne Massa, Steve Mallia were the key decision makers of the Times of Malta during the years leading to the 2013 election.

After the change of government in 2013, and at the peak of the coordinated efforts to isolate Daphne, two of the above tried to humiliate Daphne Caruana Galizia on the steps of Castille (probably in cahoots with the prime minister and his chief of staff) by challenging (nominating) her to embarrass herself with the ice bucket water craze at the time. Of course Daphne did not fall for the bait.

Tony
Tony
14 days ago

No wonder that when we submitted our interest to tender for the works we received a reply that we do not qualify. That was when I was working with one of the most reputable construction company with an impeccable track record.

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