Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech said on Friday nothing will get in the way of the party’s determination to recoup the money defrauded by Steward Healthcare in the hospitals' deal that the court declared was “fraudulent”. 

Addressing a press conference, Grech said that 10 months after the first court judgment on the hospitals’ concession, Prime Minister Robert Abela was still defending those who defrauded the state. 

“Nothing is going to stop us from defending the national interest,” he insisted, as he rejected the assertion that the case the PN had filed against the State Advocate was helping Steward or detrimental to the national interest. 

“That assertion is just in the fantasy of Robert Abela,” he said.

PN leader Bernard Grech addressing Friday's press conference. Photo: PNPN leader Bernard Grech addressing Friday's press conference. Photo: PN

On Thursday the government said that Cabinet will be asking the court to allow it to intervene in a case filed by the Opposition against the State Advocate over alleged inaction in recovering funds from the deal.

Grech and Nationalist MP Adrian Delia last year asked the court to order the State Advocate to take action against “present and past government officials involved in the [hospitals privatisation] deal”. 

They followed up that request by calling upon the court to handle the case with urgency since the subject matter was of national interest.

After considering the Opposition’s request and the State Advocate’s objections, the Court concluded that it did not sense the need for urgency as claimed by the applicants.

Although it turned down the Opposition's request for the case to be heard with urgency, it observed that the lawsuit deserved priority.

The first hearing will be held on Monday before Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti, nearly a year after a court annulled the privatisation deal for the running of St Luke’s, Karin Grech and the Gozo General hospitals.

That judgment, in February 2023, called the contract "fraudulent".

In October, the Court of Appeal confirmed the judgement and upheld the cancellation of the contracts, on the basis that Steward had also failed to deliver on their promises and concluded that the entire deal appeared to be fraudulent.

The appeals court also said it believed there was “collusion” between Steward and senior government officials and that the government had failed to protect the national interest in upholding the deal.

The concession for the running of the three hospitals was initially given to Vitals Global Healthcare but was in 2018 taken over by Steward Healthcare after this bought a majority stake in Vitals.

Grech insisted on Friday that Abela was duty-bound to file a case to recoup the defrauded money.

“What is holding him back? He preferred defending Steward and Vitals over the national interest. What is worrying Abela? What is he scared of?” he asked.

Instead of joining the case to recoup the money, the government was trying its best to stop PN’s case, he said.

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