Judge Francesco Depasquale had harsh words for the “lax and amateurish” way people entrusted by the government to handle the Vitals Global Healthcare/Steward contracts had acted. Here are some of the key Maltese players...

Joseph MuscatJoseph Muscat

Joseph Muscat – prime minister

The deal saw the St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals signed away to a company with no prior healthcare experience.

Yet, the former prime minister defends the “fraudulent” Vitals/Steward deal to this day, insisting he acted in the best interest of the people.

Muscat is under criminal investigation for suspected kickbacks he received in connection with the deal though he denies wrongdoing.

His house was searched in connection with a separate criminal probe last year, but no further action has been taken by the police.

Muscat says he has nothing to fear and welcomes all possible investigations.

Konrad MizziKonrad Mizzi

Konrad Mizzi – minister responsible for deal

The former minister was singled out by the judge for taking the lead on the suspicious contract.

The court said Mizzi’s continued actions to accommodate Vitals, despite them failing to meet their contractual obligations, coupled with his failure to justify these decisions in court, “made no logical sense”.

Mizzi, who is under criminal investigation for his role in the deal, has yet to publicly comment about the court’s decision.

David GaleaDavid Galea

David Galea – Negotiations committee

A close friend of Konrad Mizzi, Galea has been brought in on various government projects that have since been tainted by corruption claims. The auditor general found the negotiations committee, which led the contract negotiations with Vitals, failed to retain any documentation about its work.

“This reflects abysmally on the standard of accountability and transparency that ought to have characterised such an important process,” the auditor general said.

James CamenzuliJames Camenzuli

James Camenzuli – chairman of the evaluation committee

 Camenzuli headed the committee responsible for choosing Vitals as the best company to run three public hospitals.

The committee was found not to have carried out basic due diligence on Vitals, with Camenzuli insisting that was the responsibility of other entities.

A 2020 report by the auditor general quoted ex-minister Chris Cardona as saying Malta Enterprise’s due diligence yielded a “negative outcome” on the people behind Vitals.

Keith SchembriKeith Schembri

Keith Schembri – OPM chief of staff

The former OPM strongman has loomed large over most government deals linked to corruption.

The auditor general, whose reports the court relied heavily on, was unable to establish the precise role played by the prime minister’s office.

“Despite the NAO’s efforts at deciphering the active role played by the Prime Minister’s office, this remains obscure,” the report stated.

Schembri says his only role in the memorandum of understanding was providing a room at the prime minister’s office for the memorandum to be signed.

Manuel CastagnaManuel Castagna

Manuel Castagna – evaluation committee member

Nexia BT official Manuel Castagna sat alongside

Camenzuli on the evaluation committee. Nexia BT is the same firm ex-government officials Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri used to set up suspected money-laundering structures in Panama.

Castagna has himself since been charged with money laundering, in a case linked to Schembri.

He claimed in court to have been unaware that the government had already signed an MoU with Vitals.

Robert BorgRobert Borg

Robert Borg – evaluation committee member

Accountant Robert Borg completed the committee trio. Borg has acted as the financial controller of the Labour-leaning General Workers’ Union and has served on many government entities.

He owned a company called B.E.D Limited, suspected to have been used to channel money from businessman Yorgen Fenech to the Labour Party.

Like Castagna, Borg also claimed to have been unaware of the MoU.

Ronald MizziRonald Mizzi

Ronald Mizzi – permanent secretary

One of Konrad Mizzi’s key enablers, Ronald Mizzi followed him from the Energy/Health Ministry to Tourism.

The auditor general’s report, on which the court relied heavily, identified Ronald Mizzi as being partly responsible for the governance failures.

Mizzi presented the court with a €100 million side-letter that gave Steward insurance against any annulment of the hospital contract.

He claimed not to have been involved in the talks leading to the €100 million agreement, only learning about it from a cabinet memo distributed by Konrad Mizzi.

Mario GaleaMario Galea

Mario Galea – Malta Enterprise

Mario Galea was the initial government contact point with the eventual investors behind Vitals.

The investors signed a memorandum of understanding with the government in October 2014, months prior to the hospitals contract being published.

Galea denies any role in negotiating the MoU.

Judge Francesco Depasquale said the MoU, and

Vitals’ failure to disclose it, showed fraudulent intent. Depasquale stopped short of apportioning any blame on the government personnel who were fully aware of the MoU’s existence.

The government was initially reluctant to give the auditor general a copy, claiming it had been “lost”.

Edward SciclunaEdward Scicluna

Edward Scicluna – finance minister

Scicluna’s absence, rather than presence in the deal, was noted during his testimony in court.

Scicluna, the man responsible for the public purse, says he was unaware of many of the main elements in the suspect fraud, such as the memorandum of understanding and €100 million escape clause for Steward, the company which took over the original deal.

The auditor general has similarly noted the Finance Ministry’s absence in a contract worth €4 billion over its lifespan.

Scicluna, now the Central Bank governor, was also included in Repubblika’s investigation request.

Chris CardonaChris Cardona

Chris Cardona – economy minister

Cardona was the minister who signed the Memorandum of Understanding, the document pinpointed by the court as being the starting point of the “fraud”.

The memorandum was signed with the Vitals investors months before the public tender for the contract, therefore offering them a competitive advantage over other bidders.

Judge Depasquale, however, left him, and the government, with plenty of wiggle room.

The judge blames Vitals for not informing the government that it had signed a memorandum of understanding… with the government.

Cardona is also one of the ministers who features in an inquiry requested by rule-of-law NGO Repubblika into the hospitals’ deal.

Chris FearneChris Fearne

Chris Fearne – health minister

The deputy prime minister gave his blessing for the contract to be transferred from Vitals to Steward Healthcare. Once this was done, he famously described Steward as the “real deal”.

Much like Scicluna, Fearne is notable in his absence during key parts of the contract negotiations and implementation.

Fearne has gone on record complaining that he was not adequately consulted or involved in the decision-making process leading to the contracts signed with VGH.

He further claims that Konrad Mizzi carried out parallel negotiations with Steward, behind his back.

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