A former permanent secretary facing criminal charges over the Vitals hospital inquiry "deserves a medal", Culture Minister Owen Bonnici said when asked if he should be removed as the chair of the national orchestra.

Alfred Camilleri is among a raft of people to be charged with fraud, misappropriation, and crimes he was duty-bound to prevent in connection with the 2015 hospitals deal. 

Camilleri was the finance ministry permanent secretary when the deal was negotiated and throughout most of the concession period. He now chairs the board of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and sits on the board of directors of hotel giants Corinthia Group. 

Asked if he should be removed as chair of the national orchestra, Bonnici defended him as a man of "enormous integrity" who has "much more to contribute to the government and the entire cultural sector".

Owen Bonnici answering questions on Alfred Camilleri

“He is an honest, serious person who doesn’t deserve to be called into court but deserves the biggest medal that we can give as a people to this man," Bonnici said.

He said that although he does not know the contents of the magisterial inquiry, which has not been published, he would continue to support Camilleri and appealed for caution and prudence.

“One of the things that has perplexed me is how Alfred Camilleri has ended up in this whole issue, as far as I know from what I am seeing publicly,  without anyone ever sending for him and asking him questions.”

Prime Minister Robert Abela has also alluded to Camilleri's prosecution as evidence that the magisterial inquiry into the deal was unfair. Abela claimed that Camilleri's only sin appears to be that he "worked under Labour."

Camilleri was one of the few permanent secretaries to operate under the PN and survive the 2013 change of government. 

Bonnici was speaking before Chris Fearne, who is facing similar charges, resigned from government on Friday.

Joseph Rapa, the former health permanent secretary, who is also to be charged with similar financial crimes, was dropped from the APS board of directors on Thursday. 

Ronald Mizzi, a third permanent secretary facing charges, remains in his position with the economy ministry and has not yet commented.

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