Chris Fearne, Edward Scicluna, three top civil servants and nine others are to face charges of fraud, misappropriation and fraudulent gain in connection with the hospitals' deal, Times of Malta can reveal.

Malta’s deputy prime minister and central bank governor are among a group of 14 people and two companies listed in a second charge sheet related to the Vitals deal that was filed in court on Monday.

The second group of people charged in connection with the deal do not stand accused of having taken bribes or trading in influence, though they still face serious charges. 

The list – which is separate to one that features Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and others – includes lawyers, civil servants and people who served on the adjudication committee that awarded the lucrative deal to run three state hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare.

It lists two former permanent secretaries, Alfred Camilleri and Joseph Rapa, and a current one in Ronald Mizzi, adjudication committee members James Camenzuli, Manuel Castagna and Robert Borg, financial controller Kenneth Deguara and five lawyers: Kevin Deguara, Jean Carl Farrugia, Aron Mifsud Bonnici, Deborah Anne Chappell and Bradley Gatt.

Also cited is law firm DF Advocates, which is led by Kevin Deguara and Farrugia with Kenneth Deguara as its Chief Financial Officer, and its sister firm DF Corporate Advisory. The firm served as legal advisers to Vitals as well its medical supplier Technoline and was raided by police in 2021.

The charge sheet adds to a political earthquake that has rocked Malta's political establishment. 

Suspicions about the deal to privatise three state hospitals led to multiple investigations and court cases. 

In 2020, the National Audit Office concluded that Vitals should have been disqualified from the deal altogether. In 2023, a civil court annulled the entire deal following a case filed by then-Opposition leader Adrian Delia. 

Now, a years-long magisterial inquiry into ministerial crimes has culminated in criminal charges for some of Malta’s highest-profile politicians.

It remains unclear on what basis prosecutors have charged all those cited, as that inquiry remains under wraps.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has sought to dismiss the inquiry that triggered the charges as politically motivated. 

But while he has implied that he has full faith in Fearne and will not be sacking him, the criminal charges are likely to derail the deputy prime minister's plans of becoming an EU Commissioner later this year.

Similarly, it is unclear how central bank governor Scicluna will be able to sit on the European Central Bank’s governing council while also defending himself from criminal charges of fraud.

What are they to be charged with? 

All those cited are to be charged with fraud amounting to over €5,000 and having made fraudulent gains. Fearne, Scicluna, Camilleri, Mizzi, Rapa and Chappell will also face charges of misappropriation.

The three top civil servants will also face charges of having committed crimes they were duty-bound to prevent.

Chappell, who served as Vitals' in-house legal counsel, the Deguaras and Jean Carl Farrugia will also face money laundering charges.

Kevin Deguara, Farrugia, Chappell, Castagna and Mifsud Bonnici, who is close to Konrad Mizzi, face charges of having actively participated in a criminal activity and criminal association.

Chappell and Kenneth Deguara will answer to charges of document fraud, including documents related to VAT.

Those accused will be arraigned before Magistrate Rachel Montebello at an as-yet unspecified date. 

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