New information about the conduct of three ministers in the sale of three public hospitals merits a criminal investigation, a magistrate has ruled.

Magistrate Dorren Clarke ruled that the legal requirements had been met for an inquiry into the conduct of Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Economy Minister Chris Cardona.

She said the new information, which has not been made public, should be given to the magistrate already investigating Ivan Vassallo, the owner of hospital supplier Technoline.

All three ministers released a statement saying they would appeal in the coming days. 

The ruling is the latest in an ongoing saga around the Vitals Global Healthcare hospitals deal.

Civil society NGO Repubblika requested an inquiry to investigate whether there was criminal complicity by the ministers in the transfer of St Luke's, Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals.

The probe was also to include Ivan Vassallo, the owner of hospital supplier Technoline.

An initial request was accepted but then quashed on appeal by Mr Justice Giovanni Griscti, who found that investigations by journalists were not a suitable basis for starting an inquiry. 

After the request was dismissed on appeal by Mr Justice Griscti, investigations were started only in the case of Mr Vassallo, who had not appealed. 

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In her decree, Magistrate Doreen Clarke said the claim by the ministers that the allegations made by the application were based on conjectures made in media articles did not hold water in as far as her role was concerned.

She said it was not her remit to establish the veracity of the allegations which would be investigated by the inquiring magistrate in order to establish the truth.

She said the legal requirements for the magisterial inquiry had been met and the inquiry was to take place so as to preserve all necessary and material evidence for the purpose of determining criminal responsibility or otherwise. 

The magistrate said that whoever denounced an alleged crime did not have a duty to supply the material traces but had the duty to supply all information in his possession about the relevant facts. It was then for the Inquiring Magistrate to “collect, preserve and describe those traces.”

Magistrate Clarke said the additional information merited further investigation.

She said that since there already was an inquiry into allegations made about Mr Vassallo’s alleged involvement, it did not make sense to have a duplication of inquiries on the same matter so she ordered that the new information in the fresh request be made known to the magistrate conducting the other inquiry.

The application requesting the inquiry was signed by Jason Azzopardi.

 

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