The Malta Independent 8 August 2020, Saturday

TMIS Editorial - VGH MoU: It wasn’t me

Sunday, 2 August 2020, 11:00 Last update: about 6 days ago

There was a famous (and very cheesy) song in the year 2000, by Shaggy, called ‘It wasn’t me.’

Its lyrics depict one man asking his friend what to do, after his girlfriend caught him in bed with another woman. The friend's advice is to deny everything, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

No, this is not an editorial about music. We are only going down this particular musical memory lane because we are reminded about the pop hit by what is happening with the lost-and-found VGH MoU .... a damning agreement described by the National Audit Office as “proof of collusion” between the company and the government, but over which no one wants to take responsibility.

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In Part 2 of the Vitals Global Healthcare investigation, the National Audit Office said this week that the MoU had been signed by then Economy Minister Chris Cardona. The former Labour Party deputy leader, who was forced to quit both roles in the wake of the Daphne murder investigation, immediately said he had not been involved in the negotiations.

It is rather hard to believe that Cardona would have signed such an important document without having been involved in the negotiations or without having been informed of its contents. If he signed it without knowing, then he was not fit to be a minister in the first place. The fact that he signed off on it makes him partly responsible for this mega-scandal. If he was forced or coerced into signing it, if this was some other attempt at a “frame up”, he should just come out and say it.

The NAO also pointed its finger at Keith Schembri who, it said, had organised a meeting between the government and the investors at the Office of the Prime Minister. Schembri was prompt to issue a denial – he would have us believe that his only input was to provide a room for the meeting.

Firstly, his claim confirms that the government, or rather the OPM, was in talks with VGH well before the Request for Proposals (RfP) was issued. This confirms Part 1 of the NAO investigation, which spoke of “collusion” between the government and the investors and said that VGH should have been disqualified from the tendering process.

We also find it hard to believe that Keith Schembri, the man who in Evarist Bartolo’s words ran a “shadow government” and had “too much power”, was only involved in setting up the logistics for the meeting.

Schembri was involved in most major government deals so its hard to believe he was not involved in this one too.

The disgraced chief of staff, who had a secret Panama company, was mentioned in a number of FIAU reports pointing to suspicion of money laundering and has been linked to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia once again tries to play the saint and insists that he did nothing untoward.

Schembri then pointed his finger at the former CEO of Malta Enterprise, but the latter said he had only been involved insofar as the role of the Barts medical school was involved.

Of course, then Health Minister Konrad Mizzi also insisted that he is innocent, as did Joseph Muscat who, as Prime Minister was in charge of the government, and therefore responsible for everything that it did.

It is clear that a game of pin the tail on the donkey is being played by the people involved in this stinking deal.

As per usual, no one knew anything, heard anything or signed anything. As per usual, we are being taken for fools.

When the Memorandum of Understanding went ‘missing’ a couple of weeks ago, Prime Minister Robert Abele gave a 24 deadline for it to be found and, lo and behold, the document suddenly appeared out of thin air.

Perhaps Abela should do the same and give 24 hours for someone to own up to this scandal. Who knows, it might just work.

On a serious note, though, this is a matter for the anti-corruption police to investigate. The Economic Crimes Unit has been asleep on the job for the best part of the last seven years and it is high time that its officers wake up from their slumber.

There is mounting proof of money laundering and corruption by senior government members, yet none of them has been investigated by this unit, let alone been prosecuted.

This is not just about political responsibility. All those involved are no longer in power, anyway. This is clear corruption, and someone must pay for it.

One must also add that such shady deals are not signed in return for nothing .... someone, somewhere always profits. We have seen it time and time again, most recently in the Montenegro wind farm scandal.

So, the police would do well to follow the money trail and bring those who are profiting from such corruption to justice.

 

 

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