Robert Abela on Sunday slammed the Opposition for wanting to "throw him and two other ministers in jail" over the Vitals/Steward hospitals deal.

Speaking during a ONE TV interview, Abela said the Nationalist Party’s attempts to have him thrown in jail showed how the Opposition had plunged “to the lowest abyss”.

PN leader Bernard Grech and MP Adrian Delia on Monday demanded a police investigation into 37 people and companies involved in the hospitals' deal.

The deal was annulled by a court in February on fraud grounds.

“Instead of fighting adversaries by offering a better vision, instead of engaging in a battle of ideas, their only idea is to try putting us all in jail”, Abela said.

The prime minister said this was not the first time the PN and “extremist elements” within it had sought to have him jailed.

A 2020 inquiry triggered by rule of law NGO Repubblika found no evidence pointing towards criminal responsibility by Abela for the death of migrants at sea.

Abela said that the same “extremist faction” had also opened up a constitutional case claiming the government had breached the migrants’ right to life.

The prime minister defended his track record in the hospitals deal, saying he had immediately taken stock of the contractual situation with Steward upon taking office in January 2020.

Upon evaluation of all the contracts, the government had decided that Steward must honour its contractual obligations, Abela said.

The American healthcare company had been pushing for a renegotiation of the contracts, to make the hospitals' concession more profitable.

Abela said the government is fighting Steward’s appeal against the decision in February to annul the concession.

He said the government has taken a strong position in the local appeal, and has also won the first round in a battle playing out before the international chamber of commerce.

Abela said the government had also sought to recoup unpaid taxes from Steward, and had also asked the Auditor General to conduct a spending probe in connection with the contracts. 

The hospitals' deal is also the subject of a four-year magisterial inquiry triggered by Repubblika in 2019.

Last year, ex-prime minister Joseph Muscat had his home and office searched as part of the probe.

Muscat denies any wrongdoing.

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