The man who Vitals Global Healthcare entrusted with the procurement of all the medical supplies for the St Luke’s, Gozo and Karin Grech hospitals has been named in a 2015 article as the Grand Secretary of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta – one of two freemason Grand Lodges in the country.
During his interview with Freemasonry Victoria Magazine, Ivan Vassallo says there are around 300 freemasons in Malta and that members join the order “seeking value in a society that seems valueless”.
Vassallo has not yet responded to a request for comment from Lovin Malta.
Earlier today, this website contacted Vassallo to ask whether he was a freemason after finding out that six of the 61 Twitter accounts he is following are freemasonry accounts. The other accounts he is following are mostly of Labour politicians and news portals. An Ivan Vassallo is also listed as the co-author of a 2010 script of the trial of King Solomon (a key figure in freemasonry) conducted by the Hospitalier’s Lodge, which falls under the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta – one of two grand lodges in the country.
Contacted by Lovin Malta, Vassallo initially said it is “none of your business” whether he is a freemason. However, he then said in a SMS that he is not a freemason and has not used his Twitter account “in years”.
Vassallo’s Twitter was set up in 2016 and his most recent activity was in December 2017, when he liked a tweet by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat commemorating Republic Day.
He has not yet answered to a follow-up question by Lovin Malta on whether he used to be a freemason.
Freemasonry, a fellowship that dates back to the 19th century, is not illegal in Malta, but the secrecy of its meetings and members has given rise to suspicions about the order. What is certain is that a code of brotherhood exists amongst freemasons, with fellow masons agreeing to scratch each other’s backs so long as this doesn’t involve breaking the law.
An Ivan Vassallo was named as a freemason in a 2010 script
Questions surround how Vassallo had funded the purchase of medical supply firm Technoline, where he had until last year worked as its sales and marketing manager. Vassallo bought out Technoline’s shareholders in February and April 2017, a deal which informed industry sources say must have cost at least €5 million. A few months after he had taken control of Technoline, Vitals entrusted the company with the procurement of all of its medical supplies for its three hospitals.
The deal placed Malta’s other medical supply firms in a very awkward position – essentially forcing them to submit all supply bids for equipment at the three hospitals to a competitor.
In a phone interview yesterday, Vassallo refused to say how he had financed the purchase of Technoline.
At least two other medical suppliers have received an anonymous letter written by someone purporting to be a Technoline employee, admitting the entire Technoline-Vitals deal will distort the market and claiming Vassallo’s purchase was financed by his contractor friend Pierre Sladden. Sladden was named in the Panama Papers as having jointly owned a BVI company along with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and former Allied Group managing director Adrian Hillman.
Both Vassallo and Sladden have denied these allegations, while Schembri has said he has no relationship with Vassallo.
It is as yet unknown whether US firm Steward Health Care, who will start taking over the hospitals from Vitals from next week, intends to honour this agreement.
More signs of the close relationship between Vitals and Technoline emerged from the latter’s choice of director, legal representative and judicial documents. A certain Pakistani national called Yaser Ali Badar appears in those three roles, alongside Vassallo, on official MFSA documents.
Yaser Ali Badar lives in the same Tigne apartment as one of Vitals’ Pakistani investors Shaukat Ali Chaudry, who hit the local headlines last year when MaltaToday revealed he had tried to broker the sale of St James’ Capua Hospital to two American-Palestinian entrepreneurs. As part of the Vitals deal, Chaudry co-owns the company Pivot Holdings with Mohammed Shoaib Walajahi, who is the CEO and founder of the Dubai-based Pivot Management Consultancy.
Pivot Holdings is the minor shareholder of Crossrange Holdings, a company which owns Gozo International Medicare and Gozo Global Healthcare. The major shareholder of Crossrange Holdings is Bluestone Investments Malta, which is owned by a BVI-company called Bluestone Special Solutions 4. Bluestone Special Solutions is run by Mark Pawley, who is the managing partner of Singapore-based private equity firm Oxley Capital.
Pawley owns 25% of a special purpose vehicle which holds 70% of the Vitals hospitals. The special purpose vehicle is co-owned by Pakistani investors Ambrish Gupta, Ram Tumuluri and Ashok Rattehalli (each with 25%). It is as yet unknown who owns the remaining 30% of the hospitals.