Documents by Steward Healthcare in which they described the Malta hospitals concession contract as 'fraudulent' are to be included in a court case instituted in Malta by former Opposition leader Adrian Delia seeking to annul the deal.

The decision was taken by Mr Justice Depasquale upon a request by Delia, although State Advocate Chris Soler minuted that Delia’s request was not relevant to his original claim.

Delia is challenging the controversial 2015 privatisation deal whereby Gozo General Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital and Karin Grech Hospital were taken over by Vitals Global Healthcare.

Steward took over the concession from Vitals in 2018.

Delia is arguing that the original concessionaire and its successor failed to fulfil contractual obligations on that deal and since important milestones had been missed, the hospitals were to be “given back to the people.”

During proceedings on Tuesday, Delia’s lawyer, Edward Debono informed Mr Jsutice Depasquale about the separate proceedings filed by Steward before the First Hall, Civil Court in February against the Medical Associates of Northern Virginia Inc. Profit Sharing Plan (MANV).

A UK court had in October 2020 ordered Steward to pay US$6.47 million as part of a settlement agreement dating back to December 16, 2016. MANV had claimed the funds for its involvement in the acquisition of the hospitals concession.

But Steward Malta Limited, Steward Malta Assets Ltd and Steward Malta Management Ltd are seeking to block enforcement of that judgement. 

A garnishee order was issued against Steward in January, prompting the three companies under the Steward umbrella to seek to block enforcement of that foreign judgment by resorting to a procedure before the local courts.

In its application to stop the UK court's judgement, Steward claim that MANV’s claims are “tainted” by irregularities and collusion and therefore allowing enforcement of their claims in terms of the UK judgment would breach “public order.” 

Steward said that through their representative and trustee Ambrish Gupta, MANV were involved in “irregular and collusive practices” in the 30-year hospitals concession granted by the Maltese government.

Moreover, Stewards declared that “hardly a year had lapsed since the start of the concession than it was clearly evident that the concessionaire companies were struggling to fulfil their obligations under the concession and were in a precarious financial state.”

Reading out extracts of Steward’s application, Debono stressed that it was essential and imperative for that court document filed in separate proceedings by Steward to be produced before this court hearing Delia’s case.

“Part of the proof to be produced by Delia was made by the respondents themselves,” said Debono.

Steward’s lawyer did not object to Delia’s request, pointing out that with reference to the UK judgment their application was public as were also the proceedings filed by the concessionaire.

Moreover, the matter had been flagged in the National Auditor’s report and attached addendum which were also public.

State Advocate Chris Soler minuted that Delia’s request was not relevant to his original claims when filing his Vitals case.

Delia’s lawyer expressed incredulity.

“Not relevant if Steward themselves are saying that the concession was granted as a result of fraud?! What better proof than this!” he exclaimed.

Mr Justice Depasquale upheld Delia’s request, authorising him to present a copy of Steward’s application in the other proceedings against MANV.

The case was then adjourned to December 14 by which date Malta Industrial Parks (now named INDIS Malta Ltd) and the Lands Authority are to produce all documentary evidence, thus enabling the court to map forward the case.

Lawyer Eliana Scicluna represented INDIS, Maronia Magri represented Lands Authority.

State Advocate Chris Soler and lawyer Andrew Cauchi represented the government.

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