Malta's government has sidestepped the conclusions of a damning court judgment which found that its top officials had colluded with Steward Health Care in pushing and defending a deal to privatise three state hospitals. 

In a statement on Monday, the government made no reference to the Court of Appeal's conclusions, which said the Maltese government had failed in its duty to protect the national interest and defended Steward right until it filed its appeal. 

In a 99-page judgment, the Court of Appeal also found that "senior government officials" were complicit in the privatisation debacle, which cost the country hundreds of millions of euro.

The decision confirmed a landmark judgment in February to cancel contracts related to the deal, on the basis that Steward Healthcare had not fulfilled its contractual obligations. The court had concluded that the hospitals deal was fraudulent. 

In a statement issued on Monday morning following the appeals verdict, the government made no reference to the scathing criticism directed its way by the court.

Instead, it emphasised that it had taken over the three hospitals months ago, having informed Steward of its intention on March 21 and taking over the hospitals on April 4.

It said that it was implementing "a number of initiatives" at the facilities. 

The government noted that it had not appealed the original decision and instead replied to 10 applications filed by Steward, it said.

It and Steward are also locked in an arbitration battle, with the healthcare giant having filed case before the International Chamber of Commerce.

In its statement, the government said it had won the first stage of that case, on April 14.

The government will continue to safeguard the national interest from every aspect, including financial ones, it said.

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