Leader of the opposition in Malta has accused ex-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of “premeditated theft” for his part in a deal with a company eyeing up PPPs in Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia.
The deal with Vitals Global Healthcare saw three state hospitals being handed to the private company who were given the concession to run them for 99 years. Worth some €7 billion, VGH also took over €100 million, didn’t deliver on any contractual agreements and was then sold to American company Steward Health Care for €1.
It was then discovered that those involved in Vitals and Steward were one and the same and were receiving kickbacks on the sale of the concession while Maltese taxpayers lost it all. The ministers involved in brokering the deal are currently under criminal investigation.
Opposition leader Adrian Delia said in a press conference today “I have already said this: this [the deal] was a plan to earn millions from a premeditated failure.”
It came to light that Muscat, after his resignation following protests over him and his cabinets alleged involvement in journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, had still been lobbying the government for more money for the deal.
“It’s unbelievable that we paid Vitals €180 million from the get-go and then kept paying them millions per year, another €20 million in 2016, €40 million in 2017, another €40 million in 2018 and €50 million in 2019. And Joseph Muscat approached Abela to tell him that we need to keep paying them. For what? They took our money, property and give nothing back.”
VGH signed a memorandum with the government of Montenegro for the building of new hospitals. When VGH sold to Steward, the government signed a new MoU with similar provisions with the new company. The Albanian Ministry of Health then signed an MoU with the Montenegro Ministry of Health to share contacts in the medical field. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama then reportedly drafted a law that would allow private-public partnerships in Albania, paving way for a replication of the failed Malta deal in Albania.
Meanwhile, investors Sri Ram Tumuluri and Shaukat Ali Gahfoor who were behind both VGH and Steward made a number of visits to Albania and Montenegro to further negotiate the deal. Steward also met with the Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and he also visited Malta to meet with Muscat.
Steward Healthcare allegedly plan to run several hospitals in Albania including one in the port city of Vlore.