Former PN leader Adrian Delia has declared a court judgment annulling the controversial deal that handed the running of three state hospitals to a private consortium as a “victory for Malta”, while the government said it would be “analysing” the sentence.
“Malta has won, justice has won and the truth is finally out,” Delia said upon his exit from the courtroom on Friday, greeted by cheering crowds chanting his name.
“We believed you can never stop fighting and you must never give up in the face of corruption. Let’s continue to believe in justice and the institutions and believe that justice will always prevail,” said Delia, who had initiated the case when he still served as opposition leader.
In its initial reaction, the government said it was going to “analyse” the sentence handed down by Judge Francesco Depasquale on Friday.
“In every eventuality, the government assures that it is going to safeguard the national interest, all of its employees and the services that patients receive from these hospitals.”
Meanwhile, former prime minister Joseph Muscat said all decisions made with regards to the concession had been approved by his cabinet.
He also welcomed the possibility of any further investigation into the deal.
“This is because I want all the facts to be known. I have always acted in the best interest of the people and citizens of good conscience know this,” Muscat said.
In a press conference, Opposition leader Bernard Grech called on the public to show up outside parliament on Monday, where he said the Nationalist Party will be demanding an immediate discussion of the matter.
"You must strengthen this political cause for your rights. And that’s why you should be there, in front of parliament, to show Robert Abela’s government that its behaviour is unacceptable," he appealed.
Grech slammed Prime Minister Robert Abela “for defending the interests of the fraudulent and the corrupt” instead of “safeguarding the best interests of the people”.
Abela, he said served as lawyer and legal consultant of Joseph Muscat when the contracts were signed and “continuously defended the people who gave our hospitals away”.
“Those who defend these deals and kept shelling out money to support it are a part of this fraudulent contract.”
The PN leader said that every contract that Muscat "and his friends" have dealt with needs to be investigated.
Delia also addressed the media during the news conference, saying the court had vindicated his struggle to initiate the case, battling the attorney general who argued he had no right to be involved.
The judgement, Delia explained had also laid blame on various government entities, including the Lands Authority and INDIS, which is responsible for government-owned facilities, who, he said, had shirked their responsibilities.
Daphne Caruana Galizia's writing
In reaction, the Daphne Caruana Galizia foundation said the murdered journalist had been “vindicated”, as it had validated her reporting on the deal in 2015.
Caruana Galizia had written about a deal the government had struck ahead of the call for the privatisation of the three hospitals, with Oxley Capital Group of Singapore. Representatives of the company, she reported, had visited Malta months earlier for meetings.
Caruana Galizia wrote: "I knew my information was 100% correct not only because of the cast-iron reliability of the people who were invited to those meetings at PriceWaterhouseCoopers only to be confronted with this disturbing information but also because, when I texted the government head of communications, Kurt Farrugia, asking him to confirm or deny that the government had reached an agreement with Oxley before the tender was out, he didn’t reply at all. There was a blank wall of silence".
The foundation called for the authorities to move swiftly against all those implicated in the fraudulent deal with both criminal prosecutions and civil action to recover stolen funds, and to ensure the return of public assets to their rightful owners.
Call to investigate Muscat, Cardona, Mizzi
In a statement, Green Party ADPD called for a public inquiry into all contracts awarded by the government during Muscat’s tenure as prime minister.
“It is now crystal clear that the contract was fraudulent,” party chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said.
He also requested that the Police Commissioner investigate Muscat, as well as former ministers Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona for fraud and corruption “without delay”.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola echoed Delia’s reaction that the judgement was a victory for the entire country.
“The decisions show that the contracts were neither in the best interest of healthcare workers nor that of the patients,” she said.
“From the beginning, the message to the government has been clear: do not sell off our hospitals.”
Graffitti call for immediate arrest of Joseph Muscat and other former top officials
Civil society NGO Moviment Graffitti has called for the immediate criminal prosecution of Joseph Muscat, as well as former minister Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona as well as former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri for their involvement in masterminding the deal.
“Justice Depasquale today made clear that any attempt at shifting responsibility from individuals directly responsible for the fraudulent Vitals and Steward Healthcare concession to the whole cabinet would constitute a dangerous, manipulative and deceitful act,” they said.
“In light of this, Moviment Graffitti insists on the immediate, full and clear criminal prosecution of Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and Keith Schembri as representatives of the government of Malta in 2014.”
They called on the government to immediately put a stop to any more payments to be made to Steward and to ensure that it will not have to pay the exit penalty that binds it to pay even more money if the contract is rendered null
“We also call on Prime Minister Robert Abela to ensure that taxpayers of Malta and Gozo recuperate the millions that they were robbed of and that were thrown away in this fraudulent concession. This must be done through the payment of damages by all political and private individuals involved,” they said.