According to its website, Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) is a “healthcare company based in Malta’ that manages public-private partnerships and is controlled by the Bluestone Group. Back in 2014, it formulated and won a bid for the management and administration of a number of public hospitals in Malta worth a staggering EUR 7 billion over the 99 year lifetime of the agreement. It was then paid a total of EUR 49.5 million by Maltese taxpayers in 2016 and 2017, and citing financial troubles, before it was sold to Steward Global Healthcare in January 2018 for a grand total of EUR 1.
Whilst the deal drew a lot of skepticism and controversy, it wasn’t until an investigation by independent media website ‘The Shift News’ came to light, that the full treachery of the deal was understood.
The investigation revealed a web of corruption, facilitated by Maltese Minister Konrad Mizzi- the same minister involved in the dodgy deal with SOCAR, the Azeri state-owned energy company implicated in the circumstances surrounding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, as well as allegations of money laundering and bribery. Despite receiving bail outs from the Maltese government, VGH was quickly operating in debt and failed to meet any of its contractual obligations. It was then sold by Bluestone to a supposedly independent company called Steward Global Healthcare for EUR 1, yet behind the scenes, millions changed hands between the real owners, hiding behind companies in Jersey. This confirmed that Bluestone was only a front company, and even after the “sale” of VGH, Bluestone still had shares in the company along with other individuals who hid their involvement through webs of hidden option agreements and non-arm’s length loans. In other words, the only people to lose out in this deal and the subsequent sale were the Maltese taxpayers, with the full knowledge and support of the Maltese government.
But what is the link to Albania? In October 2016, a number of offshore companies were registered with names such as VGH Montenegro LTD and VGH Kosovo LTD. At the same time, in a leaked letter, the man behind VGH, Ram Tumitrui boasted about “working with the government of Albania to take over a 400-bed hospital”. To date, there is no record of any company related to VGH operating in Albania and there is no record of any PPP between them and the Albanian government.
This raises a few questions- does such a deal exits? Have the Albanian government and VGH been in talks regarding a healthcare PPP? And why VGH using a supposed deal with the Albanian government as a way to bolster its credibility internationally?
The VGH Malta-based company was only incorporated the day before the PPP was announced, meaning that if a deal is really on the table, the chances are that we will find out only after it is too late.
This deal is yet another example of a link between the Maltese government, Konrad Mizzi (orchestrator of the SOCAR deal and facing allegations of money laundering) and the Albanian government.