Former prime ministers must continue to uphold their responsibilities and ethical obligations, Robert Abela said in his first reaction to revelations over payments made to his precedessor Joseph Muscat.

Questioned about the €60,000 Muscat received from a Swiss company linked to Steward Healthcare, Abela declined to go into specifics, citing an ongoing magisterial inquiry by magistrate Gabriella Vella.

"Naturally, she will investigate that point and she'll reach her own conclusions," he said, adding that the government would "respect the conclusions that the magistrate reaches".

Robert Abela reacts to revelations over Joseph Muscat's consultancy fees. Video: Chris Sant Fournier

When pressed about the flow of money between Steward Healthcare, the Swiss company Accutor AG and the former prime minister, Abela said:

"All I can says it that former prime ministers must continue to uphold their responsibilities and ethical obligations."

The inquiry into the hospitals deal, which saw the Muscat government hand over the running of three public hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH), a company with no track record in health, was triggered by rule of law NGO Repubblika in 2019.

Money trail

Times of Malta revealed on Sunday how Steward Healthcare paid millions to Swiss company Accutor AG during its takeover of the government concession from VGH.

Muscat would in turn go on to receive €60,000 in “consultancy fees” split across four payments from Accutor AG and a related company called Spring X Media.

The former prime minister says the payments were part of legitimate work he carried out after resigning last year.

Abela told Times of Malta on Tuesday that he had not asked Steward Healthcare for an explanation about the Accutor AG payments, again citing the ongoing inquiry.

The network of connections.The network of connections.

“This is something the inquiring magistrate should look into”, Abela said.

The prime minister said the government respected the institutions and gave them all the necessary tools for them to carry out their work.

Questioned if he thought it was merely an issue of ethics rather than potential kickbacks on the hospitals deal, Abela said that was for the inquiring magistrate to decide.

Earlier on Tuesday, Muscat said he had "nothing to hide" over the payments.

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