Breaking: Adrian Delia Wins Landmark Case Against Vitals-Steward Hospital Deal
Adrian Delia has won his landmark case against the government over the Vitals-Steward hospitals deal.
Judge Francesco Depasquale today ordered the annulment of the deal and the return of the three hospitals to the government, with all costs to be borne by Steward Malta.
Delia’s case, which he filed almost five years ago, calls for the scrapping of the concession that placed Vitals Global Healthcare, and later Steward Healthcare, in charge of the St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals.
Depasquale warned that Vitals and Steward failed to achieve their completion milestones, including plans for design, the Barts campus, beds at Karin Grech, the renovation of the Gozo hospital, and St Luke’s beds for hospital tourism.
He said this rendered the milestones “ineffective, if not a complete farce”.
Depasquale said a breach of an agreement would undoubtedly result in the breach of the entire concession.
The judge said that the actions of former Health Minister Konrad Mizzi, who spearheaded the deal but who refused to testify in Delia’s case, “made no logical sense”.
His successor Chris Fearne and former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat admitted that original milestones weren’t reached, while Medical Association of Malta head Martin Balzan warned that Vitals “did nothing” from all things it promised.
Meanwhile, Steward failed to submit extensive evidence that it had indeed fulfilled its obligations, only presenting a single one-page affidavit by an engineer and several pages of photos.
Beds that were supposed to have been installed at St Luke’s for medical tourism purposes by the end of 2018 “have never been considered, let alone started”.
Depasquale also warned that Steward displayed a lack of good faith when it signed a deal with the government, after Delia filed the case, which would have obliged the government to pay Steward €100 million in the eventuality that the contract is scrapped by court order.
He ruled fraud was committed during three stages of the process – before the contract was signed, when it was being negotiated and when Steward took over.
He noted that the investors behind VGH had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the government well before the government issued a public call for the privatisation of the three hospitals. No public announcement of the MOU was made at the time and the judge questioned how VGH could have prepared such a detailed bid as it did in just two weeks.
Depasquale said there is no doubt VGH had bound the government into giving them full details on the hospital investment requirements, “taking advantage” of its pre-electoral pledge to upgrade them.
“The investors, aware of the political situation at the time, used fraudulent tactics to get the concession,” he ruled, adding that the the concealment of the MOU was evidence of fraudulent intent.
Depasquale warned that fraudulent behaviour continued after the concession was granted, stating that VGH made absolutely no attempt to fulfil its obligations and that it used the promise of attracting medical tourists to Malta as a smokescreen to gain control over the lands.
He said that Steward Healthcare was well aware of VGH’s contractual failures; Steward International CEO Armin Ernst used to be CEO of VGH.
He noted that the international healthcare provider convinced the government to take on all debts and to include a €100 million penalty in the eventuality that the contract is scrapped.
This, Depasquale warned, meant Steward made a “reprehensible and unjustified enrichment” on the backs of the Maltese government and people. He questioned the government’s motivations, stating that “no one with Malta’s good at heart would have everted into such a deal unless taken in by fraud.”
Cover photo: St Luke’s Hospital: Credit – Myriam Thyes
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