Chris Fearne is expected to face charges over the Vitals mega fraud. “I am eager for the opportunity to defend my integrity… I always acted correctly,” Fearne protested.

Fearne might not have been the one who devised the elaborate scam to rob the country of millions of euros. But he appears to have done nothing to stop it. He didn’t lift a finger to protect the nation from Joseph Muscat’s rotten scheme. Instead, he politically colluded, aided and abetted the scam, abusing his credibility to convince us that Vitals, and later Steward, were a brilliant idea.

Fearne betrayed us. He idly watched while Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Muscat destroyed the health service.

He failed to protect the national interest, jeopardised the nation’s health and worked tirelessly to fool us. He was responsible for health – first as parliamentary secretary, then as minister. If there was anybody who could have stopped the steal, it was him. He was deputy prime minister and Labour deputy leader. He didn’t stand up to Muscat, he collaborated. He sought his own political interest, ambitions and personal glory.

Fearne knew or should have known what Muscat and Mizzi were up to no good despite his vociferous claims to the contrary. As a doctor, he fully understood the harm wrought on the nation by handing Ram Tumuluri the concession.

Yet, in June 2016, Fearne accompanied Tumuluri to that fateful press briefing. Fearne claimed he hadn’t seen the Vitals contracts. But he stood there, selling the nation lies. He claimed Vitals would build a new Gozo hospital with 450 new beds and with, possibly, another 100.

He claimed Vitals would create between 400 and 600 new jobs in Gozo. He bluffed that St Luke’s would be extensively refurbished, adding 350 beds. He promised 320 beds at Karin Grech and a new nursing school.

When asked how much each bed would cost the government, he refused to answer. He rejected demands for contracts to be published.

When he finally tabled those contracts in parliament, in October 2016, 43 entire pages were redacted. The remaining pages had entire paragraphs blacked out. Fearne concealed all the crucial details – concession milestones, equipment Vitals was obliged to procure, termination payments, company guarantees, conditions for government step-in.

Fearne rejected all calls for publication of the full contracts. Right until March 2023, ADPD was still calling for their publication. Fearne refused. That’s hardly acting correctly. By concealing those contracts, he politically enabled the fraud. Fearne colluded in defrauding the nation by siding with the fraudsters instead of the people.

Fearne now claims he always acted within the law. Yet, under oath before the Caruana Galizia inquiry board, he claimed in September 2020 that “I only got to know of the MOU (signed between Vitals and government representatives in 2015) recently”. But Times of Malta revealed in November 2016 that “two of the contracts” were signed by Vitals and Mizzi on November 30, 2015.

That was months before the request for proposals was issued. Fearne should have known about it at least since 2016 from Times of Malta.

Fearne did all he could to promote Vitals. Despite later testifying that he’d been completely excluded from negotiations, he lied to the nation that “we performed our due diligence and they (Vitals) have a huge track record and we are confident”. When challenged about the exorbitant sum Vitals was being paid for an air ambulance, he lied some more: “The VGH air ambulance is used every week and has saved lives.”

When Vitals imploded and Muscat frantically recruited Steward to take over, Fearne was never involved in discussions. Fearne told the NAO that he only learned about key developments “through third parties”. He found out Steward had taken over “through the media”.

He testified in court of his frustration that Muscat and Schembri were secretly negotiating with Steward behind his back. But he stood by Muscat and voted in support of Mizzi in parliament.

He praised Steward as “the real deal”, despite the fact that the due diligence showed SHC System LLC, Steward’s parent company, had “consecutive years of substantial losses”. How was Steward going to invest €220 million in our health services when it was facing serious financial problems? That report also flagged “considerable concerns” about Steward’s senior executives. It revealed Steward failed to submit financial statements and had unpaid fines of €253,000 for “lack of transparency”. Didn’t Fearne, the deputy prime minister, know this? Why was he trying to con us with his “real deal” nonsense? That “real deal” has now filed for bankruptcy.

Fearne had no excuses. His own medical association warned him. MAM advised the government to stop the concession transfer to Steward. Fearne ignored them. “The contract is signed and it’s binding,” he rudely replied.

Fearne must have known Muscat was up to no good. Muscat humiliated Fearne, stripping him of any control over the hospitals concession and designating Mizzi to lead it.

Muscat took Schembri to Caruana Galizia’s murder investigation briefings but not his deputy prime minister. Muscat undermined Fearne by dealing with Steward behind his back. Yet, Fearne concealed all this from the nation, hugging Muscat on stage in the leadership campaign.

Fearne covered up for Muscat and Mizzi  because he calculated that that’s what was required to become prime minister. But Muscat outsmarted him. Muscat’s meddling wife snatched certain victory from Fearne and handed it to Robert Abela.

Fearne went into a hissy fit and sulked for days after Abela’s victory. He soon returned, banking on his next best target – European commissioner. Now Muscat is about to scupper even that for Fearne. The spiteful Muscat will never forgive Fearne for testifying against him. Fearne broke Labour’s code of omertà. Muscat will make Fearne pay for his disloyalty.

Fearne knows Muscat deserves to face justice: “I want to make it clear that I am only talking about my situation and mine alone. I strongly believe that justice should be blind and should be seen to be so.”

Fearne likely detests Abela’s despicable efforts to protect Muscat. Fearne would want Muscat jailed. But he’s too timid to say it openly. He’s afraid that might cost him his European Commissioner post.

Fearne appears to be a self-centred, calculating schemer who’d rather let the country drown, again, then lose his commissioner post. If Muscat succeeds in ruining Fearne’s European dreams, political justice would have been done.

Fearne’s spineless collaboration with Muscat served the interests of both of them. Fearne was the country’s most trusted minister. He betrayed that trust and duped the nation, repeatedly, to preserve his own ambitions.

Fearne had plenty of chances and blew them. He deserves no more.

This article was written before Chris Fearne’s resignation from the government.

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