The money is the result of tax and social security arrears that had been waived by disgraced ex-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who was forced to resign following national protests over his links to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. But a working group set up by new Prime Minister, Robert Abela recommended that Steward would have to pay its dues.
Muscat’s administration had granted Steward breathing space by pushing back tax deadlines and giving extensions on project deliverables but Ministers have now agreed that no more extensions would be granted. Should Steward fail to pay what it owes now and going forward, they will be in breach of the lucrative contract they have with the government.
Steward took over a concession to run three state hospitals in 2017 after the previous concessionaire, Vitals Global Healthcare failed to deliver on a single contractual commitment. Instead, VGH racked up huge debts, devoured millions of taxpayers money and then sold the deal, worth billions to Steward for just €1.
It was then discovered that investors Sri Ram Tumuluri and Shaukat Ali Ghafoor were involved in both VGH and Steward, therefore profiting off both the sale of the concession and its continuation. Meanwhile, no one knows where the millions and millions of Maltese taxpayers’ money went.
Investigations by The Shift News also found that the President of Steward Malta, Armin Ernst was a former Director at Vitals, making the switch to the new owner of the concession, a few months before any sale took place.
He recently demanded some €18 million from the Maltese government, blaming VGH’s management of the deal, despite the fact he was involved in both entities.
The deal is currently subject to a criminal investigation and an in-depth probe by the countries national auditors.
Exit previously revealed how VGH had used their “success story” in Malta to pitch to governments in Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia. Tumuluri and Ghafoor visited Albania to meet with senior government officials on a number of occasions and a web of Memorandums of Understanding and Healthcare PPP laws paved the way for the scam to be realised in the Balkans.
Just last month, Prime Minister Edi Rama continued his publicity campaign to set the scene for public healthcare PPPs, stating that they were the best way to fund public health in the country.
Opposition leader Lulzim Basha said this was a lie that could cost the country as much as €40 million every year. He called public health PPPs “corrupt affairs” and said that Rama’s talk of “free health” is a criminal lie.