The Malta Independent 17 June 2024, Monday
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Government ordered to list its witnesses after a wasted sitting in PN's Vitals compensation case

Friday, 3 May 2024, 12:03 Last update: about 3 months ago

A judge has given the government six days to present a list of its witnesses in the Nationalist Party's civil case seeking a court order to recover the millions paid out from the public purpose as part of the privatisation of three public hospitals.

The civil case had been filed by the Nationalist Party, requesting the recovery of the millions paid from the public coffers to Vitals Global Healthcare (later substituted by Steward Healthcare) in a 2015 deal, which had handed over the running of St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo General hospitals to the company.

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That deal was subsequently annulled by a court on the basis of fraud last year, that judgement later also being confirmed on appeal. The Court of Appeal judgement went one further and suggested that there had been collusion, as well as fraud.

The Friday morning sitting before Mr. Justice Toni Abela was intended for the Government, which was admitted as a party at its own request, to make their case and Prime Minister Robert Abela, Justice Minister Jonathan Attard, Opposition leader Bernard Grech as well as Grech’s predecessor Adrian Delia were all present for today’s court sitting.

But when the sitting started, lawyer Ian Borg, who is assisting Cabinet, informed the court that he was endorsing the submissions made by the State Advocate in the previous sitting both regarding the authenticity of the documents in the acts as well as that about the cross-examination of Adrian Delia and asked the court for another sitting in order to present all of his client’s evidence.

Lawyer Adrian Delia, who had triggered the investigation into the deal with Vitals Global Healthcare, pointed out that today’s sitting had been meant to hear all the remaining evidence. “So they should at the very least, explain why they haven’t done so.” 

Lawyer Edward Debono, assisting plaintiffs Bernard Grech and Adrian Delia, dictated a note, stating that today’s sitting had been intended for all the submission of all the intervenor’s  evidence, but none had been brought. “So if an adjournment is going to be requested for further evidence, at least the intervenor must state what evidence he wants to bring,” argued the lawyer.

“We are talking about €400 million that Vitals apparently ran away with. But the courts have established collusion and fraud involving the government, and the developments since [this case was filed] indicate that we will be having more problems.”  If the companies made off with the money, their Maltese representatives and companies and properties should be held responsible for reimbursing it, Debono submitted.

The lawyer representing the Office of the State Advocate, James D’Agostino, replied that this case had “nothing to do with the money,” and that the other party was misunderstanding the role of his Office.

Judge Abela noted that he had read “something about a freezing order” connected to the Vitals issue in today’s newspapers and asked D’Agostino to confirm whether it was true. 

“What we know is only from the media,” replied the lawyer. “Only the AG can say whether or not this has been issued.”

The judge agreed with Debono’s point that the Government’s witnesses should be identified before the next sitting, and ordered the government to do so within six days from today, by means of a note.

The case was adjourned to May 15.

Lawyers Edward DeBono and Nicholas DeBono are representing Grech and Delia. Lawyers James D'Agostino and Julian Farrugia are representing the State Advocate. Lawyers Chris Cilia, Ian Borg and Maurizio Cordina are representing the government and the Cabinet.

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