The Malta Independent 23 June 2024, Sunday
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PN slams government collusion in Steward deal, describes it as 'biggest fraud in country's history'

Kyle Patrick Camilleri Monday, 23 October 2023, 15:29 Last update: about 9 months ago

The Nationalist Party has condemned what it described as government’s collusion in the Steward hospitals deal – an agreement the party called “the biggest fraud in the history of the country.”

The Nationalist Party held a press conference on Monday after an appeals court rejected Steward Healthcare’s appeal against a previous court decision to rescind its concession for the running of three previously government-owned hospitals.

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The single amendment done to February’s judgement was that the costs of the case were not to be borne by Steward Healthcare alone, but must now also be shared by the Maltese Government due to their complicity and collusion in this deal.

PN leader Bernard Grech, PN former leader Adrian Delia, and PN spokesperson for health, Stephen Spiteri all addressed the press conference.

During this press conference, the trio reiterated that “Robert Abela and his government are complicit in this conspiracy that was carried out behind the backs of the Maltese people”.

Bernard Grech said that “Abela’s government has failed in their duty to the country” following Monday’s Court judgement that there was active complicity between the government and the private parties behind the €400 million total derived from taxpayer money.

Henceforth, he called for this €400 million to be returned to the people. However, he said that only the Prime Minister has the authority to authorise this.

It was repeated that this was an “historic sentence”; Delia said that there was no precedent for Monday’s sentence, being a “large fraud and betrayal by the Maltese government on its own people”. The former PN leader repeated the Court conclusion that the given hospital concession with Vitals/Stewards was the result of collusion involving the government and the appellant companies, rejecting the notion that the Government had no part in this scandal.

Delia – who initially opened this case when he was Opposition leader himself – stated that the Government kept paying millions to the companies despite them not fulfilling their portion of the agreement, even after the government knew about this.

“We have an official declaration now by the Courts that this government is complicit in stealing millions from the Maltese in a fraudulent and corrupt deal”, Delia said. “Government is meant to safeguard the national interest, not plan behind our backs in the most abusive, immoral, and illegal manner to steal away from us.”

The former PN head doubled down on how this was a planned “betrayal” by the government before calling for the calling for the €400 million to be given back. He called for the importance for people to attend Sunday’s protest to assure that “the biggest fraud, hoax, and betrayal does not happen in our country ever again”.

He also said that while this concession was given during Joseph Muscat’s administration, Robert Abela’s government paid an approximate €280 million into the deal, making the Prime Minister central in this controversy as a result.

PN’s health spokesperson said that as Steward Healthcare lost this appeal and the truth won, “the people have already lost and will continue to lose” as Maltese healthcare is already unable to keep up with the country’s population boom. Saying that Malta is no longer a country that can do with just one major hospital, Spiteri detailed how people are struggling to receive timely treatment in various different departments at Mater Dei Hospital with the high demand.

Spiteri spoke about the hours-long waiting time one now expects at Mater Dei’s emergency department, on the months-long waiting time to book an appointment with a consultant, and the years-long waiting time to book some types of operation, e.g., one in orthopaedics such as a hip/knee replacement.

He said that the present situation has resulted in being detrimental to those who require quality healthcare before saying that healthcare is “an utmost priority” for the Nationalist Party.

Bernard Grech stated that “it was obvious from the very start that this was a corrupt and fraudulent deal” and repeated that the Government was central in the present situation transpiring. Grech said that PN had criticized this deal when it was initially carried out for “Vitals were unknown and had no experience in running hospitals”. He continued that despite this, the Government attempted to defend Vitals and Steward’s Healthcare “till the end”.

“The Court has removed the Prime Minister’s mask”, Grech said. He explained that while Abela kept claiming innocence, the Court this morning clearly proved otherwise through the conclusion that the government was directly involved in this ordeal.

The Opposition held that responsibility must be carried out now that our Courts have issued that the governments of Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela colluded with Vitals and Steward Healthcare to fulfil this described “fraud, collusion, corruption, hoax, and theft from the people’s pockets”. Elaborating on this point further, Adrian Delia said that “the Government and the companies cheated the Maltese people”.

On the notion that responsibility must be carried by the governing politicians, Grech explained that “in a normal country, when something much smaller than this occurs, immediate resignations are seen” though “in this government, not only does no one resign, but all government officials deny any wrongdoing”.

The Opposition leader detailed that “Government is meant to safeguard national interest”. Furthermore, he condemned Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà for his continued inaction through these revelations, saying that the COP “does not need to wait for this magisterial inquiry to finish” to take necessary action. In the same breath, Grech stated that “the institutions should work” and that it should be “impossible that the governments of Robert Abela and Joseph Muscat carry on with these actions alongside [the impunity of] the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General.”

He took this moment to reference last month’s benefits fraud racket to say that the small fry cannot be the only ones who face justice.

“In a normal country, action is taken and there is no need for the Opposition leader to open a case to safeguard the national interest”, Grech stated.

Grech also took some time to thank his colleague Delia for his continued work in this case, saying that without him opening the case when he was leader of the Nationalist Party, “this €400 million would have continued to increase”.

Concluding the press conference, Bernard Grech emphasised the importance for people to join them on Sunday’s national protest. He said that a national protest has been called because the present situation is simply unacceptable that the government was found to be working in the interest of foreign third parties (Vitals and Steward Healthcare) rather than the interests of the Maltese people.

Grech ended the press conference with the following message to highlight the importance of Sunday’s protest in his and his party’s view.

“It is not enough to just get angry. It is not enough to just post about it on Facebook. It is not enough to just say that “this country is finished”. It is not enough to just worry whenever your children tell you they want to leave the country. It is not enough to just get angry and say that you are not going to vote “because the parties are the same” – that’s not true. The parties are not the same.”

Calling for people to attend PN’s national protest on Sunday afternoon, Grech told viewers that his party has worked for the interests of the Maltese people by opening this case and working through it. “Now you must work in the interest of your family and your loved ones”, Grech cried, “join us in front of Castille to get back our €400 million and to call for responsibility to be carried”.

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