The State Advocate, Attorney General and Police Commissioner have rebutted the Opposition's call to take action against those involved in the “fraudulent” hospitals’ deal, saying they had no power to do so.
Last week, Opposition leader Bernard Grech and MP Adrian Delia filed a judicial protest calling on the authorities to take action against those who defrauded the Maltese people.
That judicial act gave the authorities one week to take action as they were duty-bound to do.
On Wednesday, two counter-protests were filed before the First Hall, Civil Court, stating that the State Advocate, AG and police chief were not empowered to do what was being requested of them.
The State Advocate - as chief legal advisor to the government - had already done all he could by acting upon the government’s instructions in arbitration proceedings between Steward and the government, the protest argued.
And those arbitration proceedings, in terms of a clause in the contract between the two parties, were still pending. The law did not grant the State Advocate the power to take action on his own steam as Grech and Delia were expecting him to.
Likewise, in a separate counter-protest, the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner jointly argued that the functions of their respective offices were clearly defined by law.
In light of their roles, the protesting parties’ request was “untenable". The AG, as the state’s chief prosecutor, could not institute civil proceedings to claim damages.
The AG’s role was defined in terms of criminal law and the functions of that office did not empower its holder to investigate allegations related to criminal offences.
Meanwhile, the Police Commissioner’s role was to enforce criminal law and not to file civil proceedings. Over the last years, the commissioner has been assisting the Magistrate handling the Vitals inquiry into the alleged crimes, helping her in the exercise of her duties not only by placing himself at her disposition but also by allocating all necessary resources, he said.
The police corps has always acted under the direction of the inquiring magistrate, he added.
Last month an appeals court declared all contracts between the government and Steward Healthcare to run three state hospitals as officially null and void.
The decision confirmed a landmark judgment earlier in the year to end the deal on the basis that Steward had not fulfilled its contractual obligations to run Karin Grech, St Luke's and Gozo General Hospital.
Lawyer Julian Farrugia signed the State Advocate’s counter protest. Lawyers James D’Agostino and Miguel Degabriele signed the counter protest by the AG and Police Commissioner.