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MALTATODAY 13 December 2020

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4 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 13 DECEMBER 2020 NEWS MATTHEW VELLA TWO companies at the heart of the secretive ownership of the Vitals Global Healthcare consor- tium have failed to submit their ultimate beneficial ownership to the Malta Business Registry. The companies, Gozo Interna- tional Medicare and Gozo Glob- al Healthcare, were informed in early December that they had failed to comply with disclosure rules saying who the beneficial owners of the company are. The MBR said the companies have until 1 January 2021 to sub- mit the information, or face being dissolved and its name struck off the register within three months of the decision. Should that happen, the assets of the company will devolve up- on the Maltese government once the company's name is struck off. Declarations of beneficial own- ership are part of anti-money laundering rules introduced in 2018 for the Malta financial reg- ulator to have access to the iden- tities of companies' ultimate ben- eficial owners. The two companies are sub- sidaries of the company Cross- range Holidings, which is in turn owned by Bluestone Investments Malta (70%), and Pivot Holdings (30%). Pivot Holdings was owned by Mohammad Shoaib Walajahi and Chaudhry Shaukat Ali, wide- ly cited as the promoters of the hospital privatisation project. Bluestone, whose director was asset manager Mark Pawley, was in turn owned by Bluestone Special Situation 4, whose own- ership included Ambrish Gupta, Portpool Investments – which belonged to Ram Tumuluri – and AGMC Incorporated, whose director was Dr Ashok Rattehalli. But the ownership structure of Vitals Global Healthcare re- mained a closely guarded secret for years, before a National Au- dit Office report confirmed the structure of the investors' com- panies. Vitals was awarded a 30-year concession to run three state hospitals – the former St Luke's hospital, the Karin Grech hospi- tal, and the Gozo General hospi- tal. But the deal was vitiated by a dubious public competition, and by Vitals' inability to secure bank financing to advance its project. The project has since been tak- en over by American healthcare company Steward, which is itself in talks with the Maltese govern- ment to secure new guarantees on the way the hospitals will be financed. Steward Healthcare is itself fac- ing a $5 million claim in a London court from one of the original American investors who loaned Vitals millions in their initial bid to obtain the controversial hospi- tals privatisation in Malta. Medical professional Am- brish Gupta, whose Medical Associates of Northern Virginia (MANV) was an early investor in the Vitals project, loaned the money to Bluestone Investments in January 2015. A dispute arose in September 2016 over Gupta's and MANV's share in the Vitals project. A set- tlement was soon reached in De- cember 2016 to pay MANV $10 million – $5 million was settled straight away, but another $5 million, at 8% interest, had to be paid up by February 2017. The second tranche was never paid, and Vitals eventually sold off its concession to Steward Healthcare International in De- cember 2017, and the dispute dragged on into 2019. Gupta is chasing his money in a London court, asking it for a summary judgement to uphold the settlement deal. Vitals investors told to disclose their UBOs or face being struck off register CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 According to EU procurement rules, the CPSU is obliged to tap into local sources of stocked medicinals before seeking out other importers to provide any medicines that are out-of-stock. In Malta, Novartis has been supplying the CPSU through a local distributor with Cosentyx since 2016 until August 2019. But in November 2019, when the CPSU ran out of its Cosentyx supplies, it did not open negotiations with the Novartis distributor, which has regular stocks of the medicinal. Instead, it turned out that the CPSU was supplying patients with Cosentyx imported into Malta from outside the EU, more specifically from Australia by a company called Target Healthcare Limited, owned by Lewis Campbell. The latest direct order was last published on 29 September, with Target selected to provide the Cosentyx medication. "Novartis had Cosentyx stock in Malta at the relevant time, and continues to do so, and such stock could have been and can still be supplied to the CPSU at short notice," the company told Abela. "This unauthorised circulation of Cosentyx in Malta by the CPSU may vi- olate the EU legal framework relating to medicinal products and the intellectual property rights of Novartis…" Novartis took issue with CPSU's direc- tion, telling Robert Abela in its letter that the CPSU's acquisition of the Australian imports of Cosentyx are contrary to EU laws "which require medicinal products distributed in the EU to bear safety fea- tures consisting of a unique identified and an anti-tampering device, and poses a risk to public health due to the unreg- ulated distribution channels involved in their importation into Malta." Novartis also told Abela that under both EU and Maltese legislation, impor- tation of medicinal products from out- side the EU is restricted to situations of public health reasons or non-availability of medicinal products locally "and must comply with the strict conditions under the specific legislation. These conditions are not met in this particular case with Cosentyx." "We believe that the procurement of medicines must always follow the estab- lished legal framework of the European Union, aimed at safeguarding the safe- ty of medicinal products and patients' health and protecting intellectual prop- erty rights." Novartis also said it had already in- formed the CPSU and the minister of health of its complaint back in February 2020, but said that both parties had de- clined the company's invitation to dis- cuss the issue. "This unauthorised circulation of Cosentyx in Malta by the CPSU may violate the EU legal framework relating to medicinal products" Novartis complains to PM over direct orders

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