The government was in talks with the company granted a 30-year concession to run three hospitals prior to the official tendering process last year, the Times of Malta has learnt.

A Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) spokeswoman said that the company had originally proposed a project that was solely focused on the Gozo hospital.

This proposal was declined by the government, but VGH later went on to win the concession for the Gozo, Karin Grech and St Luke’s hospitals.

The request for proposals was published by Projects Malta in April 2015, and the tender was awarded to Vitals in September.

Two of the contracts governing the deal were signed on November 30, 2015, by former health minister Konrad Mizzi.

Vitals originally proposed a project solely focused on the Gozo hospital

Dr Mizzi is also the minister responsible for Projects Malta.

Shadow health minister Claudette Buttigieg last week queried the timing of the contract signing in relation to Dr Mizzi's activities in Panama.

Ms Buttigieg said Dr Mizzi’s financial advisers Nexia BT had e-mailed the Panama firm Mossack Fonseca instructing it to go ahead with the opening of a bank account for his Panama company two days after the contract with VGH was signed.

Heavily redacted versions of these contracts were only published by the government last month.

All the landmark dates and figures governing the agreement were redacted by the government due to their “commercial sensitivity”.

VGH director Ram Tumuluri yesterday denied that VGH had trouble raising financing for the €200 million project.

Speaking during a media briefing, Mr Tumuluri said the €25 million already spent included a €10 million bond with the government. He said the government had bound Vitals Global Healthcare to pay this bond in order to show its long-term commitment to the 30-year project.

The VGH director explained the four-tier structure leading up to VGH’s ultimate owner in Singapore, Oxley Group.

Bluestone Investments Malta, one of the four companies in VGH’s ownership structure, was set up in Malta in December 2014.

Mr Tumuluri also presented notarised copies of two of the companies in the British Virgin Islands forming part of the ownership structure. The documents show that Mr Mark Pawley is both the director and sole shareholder of these two companies.

Mr Tumuluri said the Oxley Group was planning to relocate its companies in the BVI to Jersey, which he said was a much more transparent jurisdiction that still had tax advantages.

He said VGH could not make any changes to control in its company structures without the government’s consent.

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