Joseph Muscat last month set his sights on an “Indian man” who claimed the ex-prime minister and his associates were set to earn €18 million from the Vitals hospital deal. 

Without naming the man, Muscat said in a ONE Radio interview that the claims against him were built on hearsay, lies and assumptions. 

Kamal Sharma, the man in question, is a former director of Accutor, the Swiss payroll firm at the heart of money-laundering and corruption claims linked to the deal. 

Sharma and fellow former director Tyrone Greenshields blew the whistle to Times of Malta about potentially suspicious activity at Accutor in November 2021. 

Muscat received €60,000 in payments from Accutor and an affiliated company shortly after stepping down from government in January 2020. 

By then, Sharma and Greenshields had already stepped away from Accutor after growing increasingly concerned about certain large payments that were flowing into the company. 

In the summer of 2019, the pair had said in a statement to Times of Malta that concerned Accutor employees in Malta and elsewhere brought details about many large payments made into and out of Accutor AG between 2017 and 2019.

These transactions, they say, had not been recorded in the customer relationship management system and records were missing from the usual shared file folders that they accessed regularly.

The payments included millions of euros that flowed into Accutor from Steward Health Care, the US company that took over the running of the St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals in 2018. 

After seeing Sharma’s and Greenshields public claims about Accutor to Times of Malta, the magistrate leading the inquiry into the deal called on them to testify. 

Greenshields testified in February 2022 and Sharma in March and April 2022. 

Investigators said in the inquiry report that their testimony carried weight. 

One of the most contentious claims made by Sharma was that Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and ex-health minister Konrad Mizzi were set to pocket €18 million yearly from the hospital deal.

Sharma told the inquiry that secret Vitals puppet master Shaukat Ali was the one who told him about the €18 million figure. Investigators said they did not find any money flows of that large amount. 

How large was the figure?

Investigators acknowledged in the report that at first glance, the €18 million figure seems “implausibly large”. 

However, once the €200 million price tag on Vitals is factored in, plus Steward’s willingness to pay multi-million-euro settlements to ex-Vitals director Ram Tumuluri, the €18 million figure allegedly cited to Sharma by Ali increases in plausibility, according to investigators. 

Sharma claimed Ali also told him that Mizzi would “sign any deal to make money”, and signing the Vitals deal was risky for the minister, but he did it anyway. 

The ex-Accutor director further claimed that Accutor’s accounting team told him payments made by the Swiss firm to the Cayman Islands were intended for Mizzi and Schembri. 

Investigators suspect Accutor was used to pass on bribes and kickbacks to Muscat, Schembri and Mizzi. All three were charged with corruption in May. They deny the charges.

Ali’s son Asad was charged last week with bribing Muscat and other former officials. Ali senior is expected to face similar charges. Sharma’s and Greenshield’s lawyer Toby Cadman said it is a matter for the courts to decide whether the testimony amounts to hearsay or if it is nonetheless admissible in ongoing criminal proceedings. 

Although their time at Accutor pre-dates the Muscat payments, the inquiring magistrate recommended that criminal association charges be pressed against both Sharma and Greenshields.

Cadman said the decision whether to press charges is clearly a matter for the courts to determine and any speculation would not be appropriate.

“You should remain mindful that my clients have the status as whistleblowers, that their statements were deemed credible, and that they voluntarily participated in the magisterial inquiry. Any comment or speculation that suggests otherwise would be wholly inappropriate,” Cadman said.

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