Malta Enterprise is attempting to keep a memorandum of understanding (MoU) it signed with Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) under wraps in a year-long battle over a freedom of information request from the Times of Malta.

The request was filed in November 2016 after this paper learnt that the MoU had been signed months before VGH had even won the concession to run three public hospitals.

Malta Enterprise is appealing a decision by the Data Commissioner’s office to hand over to it a copy of the agreement so that it can decide on the Times of Malta’s request.

VGH, which had no prior healthcare experience, set up a number of companies in Malta in December 2014, four months before the request for proposals for the concession was published by Projects Malta.

Read: Vitals hospitals memorandum signed before tender won

A leaked presentation put together by VGH shows it was already telling investors in February 2015 that it had signed a MoU to take over running the three hospitals.

Malta Enterprise rejected this newspaper’s request for a copy of the MoU on the basis of confidentiality.

VGH set up companies four months before the request for proposals

A complaint was filed with the Data Commissioner, but proceedings stalled when Malta Enterprise appealed the Commissioner’s request to be provided with a copy of the MoU.

Malta Enterprise is being represented in the appeal by Mifsud Bonnici Advocates, whose managing partner, Aron Mifsud Bonnici, is also Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi’s personal lawyer.

The appeal is being handled by Dr Mifsud Bonnici’s wife, Katrina Borg Cardona.

Watch: Vitals sale of hospital concession to US operator approved by government

Dr Mifsud Bonnici was appointed by Dr Mizzi as board secretary to Projects Malta, the entity responsible for all major public-private partnerships, including the VGH project.

Projects Malta falls under Dr Mizzi’s responsibility. Dr Mizzi, a former health minister, signed the contracts with VGH in November 2015, at a time when his financial advisers, Nexia BT, were ramping up their efforts to establish a bank account for his once-secret Panama company.

Present Health Minister Chris Fearne has sought to distance himself from the VGH deal.

The three hospitals were handed over to VGH for a mere €1, The Sunday Times of Malta revealed this week.

In a surprise announcement before Christmas, the government and VGH announced that the billion-euro concession of the Maltese public hospitals was to be sold to an American company called Steward Healthcare.

No details were given on the sale, with Health Minister Chris Fearne saying this was a “business-to-business transaction”.

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