Updated 4.05pm

Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri are among roughly 19 individuals and companies named in criminal charges filed on Monday concerning the scandal-racked deal to privatise three state hospitals.

Times of Malta understands the former prime minister, his chief staff and ex-senior minister are to be arraigned under summons, not arrest – meaning they will be expected to appear in court on the date of their arraignment and that they will be able to return home following their arraignment. 

Sources said the charges were filed in court on Monday afternoon by three lawyers from the office of Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg. 

Individuals and companies to be charged have been divided into three lots, though it remains unclear which crimes have been cited on each of those lots.

Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri are understood to feature in the first of those three charge sheets, along with a number of others. 

AG confirms prosecutions on the cards

Repubblika’s honorary president Robert Aquilina told Times of Malta that he received confirmation from Buttigieg’s office via email that all the people mentioned by the inquiring magistrate will be charged.

The inquiry, which was led by Magistrate Gabriella Vella and tasked with determining whether Muscat, his ministers or top officials committed crimes in connection with the deal to hand three state hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare, was completed 10 days ago.

Muscat immediately said the inquiry was a “political vendetta” and that he expected to be charged. Others believed to have been involved, including Mizzi, Schembri and Central Bank governor Edward Scicluna, have not commented.

Chris Fearne, Malta's nominee to the European Commission and who is also believed to be among  those cited in the inquiry, has insisted he had nothing to hide. 

Vitals was a company with no history of business and exited the privatisation deal after a few years, handing over operations to US healthcare giants Steward Health Care. 

But Steward also did not honour contractual obligations, and last year a court annulled the deal on the basis of fraud. Steward - which is locked in a dispute with the government over a €100m exit fee it says it is owed - filed for bankruptcy in the US earlier on Monday.

Muscat: 'This is an abomination'

In a Facebook post, Joseph Muscat noted that police had not questioned him before charges were filed.  

"This is no longer just a vendetta, it is disgusting and an abomination. Tens of people's lives are being tossed into a bureaucratic dump for years, just to suit others," he wrote. 

"Anyone who is involved in this injustice or who looked the other way instead of trying to fix it will be judged harshly by the people, justice and history," Muscat said. 

Joseph Muscat reacted on Facebook.Joseph Muscat reacted on Facebook.

What happens next? 

With the attorney general having now filed criminal charges in court, it is up to the judiciary to manage the next steps in the process.  

The criminal charges that have been filed will be handled by the court registrar, who will allocate them to a magistrate at random, by lot.

Whichever magistrate is assigned the case will then set a date for arraignment and notify the accused of the charges they face, and the date when the arraignments will take place.

The inquiry that triggered the AG to file criminal charges remains secret, though Opposition leader Bernard Grech has said that it is clear that Prime Minister Robert Abela has a copy and is using it for his own political ends. 

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