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MALTATODAY 5 March 2023

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13 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 5 MARCH 2023 TRUTH IS OF NO COLOUR WWW.MALTATODAY.COM.MT SUNDAY • 26 FEBRUARY 2023 • ISSUE 1217 • PUBLISHED EVERY WEDNESDAY AND SUNDAY maltatoday Foreign Minister Ian Borg at odds with ex- perts on Malta joining EU's defence initiative PAGES 14 & 15 NEUTRALITY & EU DEFENCE We map out the faith of Maltese citizens PAGES 8 & 9 Malta Kattolicissima Resignations not enough KURT SANSONE GOVERNMENT will not be ap- pealing the judgment that annulled the hospitals concession agree- ment with Steward Healthcare, MaltaToday has learnt. "The move is intended to close the chapter once and for all so that the Gozo, St Luke's and Ka- rin Grech hospitals are returned back to the State as quickly as possible," government sources said. On Friday night, Prime Minister Robert Abela said government will be asking for the 30-day timeframe for appeal be short- ened and if anyone appeals, ask for this to be heard with urgency. He did not say whether govern- ment intended to appeal. Abela was speaking after Judge Francesco Depasquale annulled the concession agreement with Steward, including all side let- ters, and ruled that steps be taken to return the hospitals to govern- ment. The sources said government has no intention of appealing and a managerial team has already been assembled to take over the running of the three buildings once the case is definitely closed. Government will not appeal Steward hospitals judgment as it braces for political fallout PAGE 2 Government will not appeal court ruling that rubbished the Steward hospitals concession agreement • Judge singles out Konrad Mizzi €1.95 'It seems like the world is watching a Netflix show, but Ukrainians are living it' PAGES 14 & 15 Adrian Delia on his court victory INTERVIEW MT2 PAGES 8 & 9 Labour's 'star candidate' Konrad Mizzi spearheaded the hospitals concession agreement with VGH and continued to be responsible for the deal even when he was no longer health minister 6 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 27 MARCH 2022 OPINION 2 maltatoday EXECUTIVE EDITOR Matthew Vella Letters to the Editor, MaltaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016 E-mail: Letters must be concise, no pen names accepted, include full name and address maltatoday | SUNDAY • 26 FEBRUARY 2023 The ball is in Abela's court Editorial THE hospitals privatisation deal had to be a flagship project of the Muscat administration. It would see the private sector invest in a new state- of-the-art general hospital in Gozo, refurbish St Luke's and Karin Grech hospitals, and attract medical tourism to Malta. The state would fork out millions of euros over the years to finance workers' wages and purchase beds for its own use but the positive side of this deal, it was claimed, was that private sector funds would be used to build the Gozo hospital, upgrade St Luke's and Karin Grech, and medical tourism would be a niche market the economy would benefit from. The concession agreement with Vitals Global Healthcare was signed at the end of 2015 and trans- ferred to Steward Healthcare in 2018. Today – eight years, two administrations and a dif- ferent concessionaire later – Gozo is without a new hospital, medical tourism is not a thing, St Luke's re- mains in the same sorry state and government keeps dishing out millions of euros to the private operator. Had it just been a question of failure by the private operator to fulfil its contractual obligations such a saga could have been brushed off as an exercise of colossal incompetence. But the hospitals saga is much, much more than that and one with serious criminal implica- tions. It represents a dark space where people in power col- luded with obscure private interests to the detriment of the public good. This is what Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale ruled last Friday in a judgment that not only annulled the deal but lambasted Vitals, Steward and the govern- ment. The court did not mince its words, attributing "fraudulent intent" to Vitals, describing Steward's machinations as "solely blackmail and unjustified enrichment", calling the concession milestones "a complete farce", casting doubt on Steward's good faith, and pillorying government for its "amateurish checks" before the contract was signed. Depasquale's ruling came after the National Au- dit Office in July 2020 published the findings of its investigation into the tender award to Vitals Global Healthcare. The NAO had confirmed what journalists, including the slain Daphne Caruana Galizia, and health sector players had long been saying about the conces- sion agreement. The NAO's damning report found collusion between Vitals and government on the hospitals deal, going as far as describing it a "predetermined" agreement. The NAO pinned the lack of governance in the award of the tender on Konrad Mizzi, who had been health minister at the time. The NAO also flagged lack of due diligence on the private company that was eventually awarded the tender and found that a feasibility study of the project was a superficial exercise. In short, Muscat's administration had already made arrangements with the investors who eventually formed VGH and the tendering process was just a sh- am intended to give the deal a veneer of respectability. Eventually, VGH failed to deliver and government steadfastly refused to terminate the deal. The saga reeked of corruption. Millions from public coffers were entering a black hole, feeding the pockets of God knows who. And when the concession was eventually sold to Steward Healthcare, in one of his final acts before re- signing as minister, Konrad Mizzi signed off on a side letter in 2019 guaranteeing Steward a termination ben- efit of €100 million, even if a court cancels the contract. The court has ruled this side agreement was part and parcel of the deal, thus striking down not only the concession agreement but all its side agreements. It also ordered that the three hospitals be returned to the government. In the face of all this, Prime Minister Robert Abela's government could only offer a meek reaction. In a two-line statement the government only said it will be studying the judgment. And while former prime minister Joseph Muscat shifted responsibility onto all his Cabinet, he insisted his government followed all legal advice it was given. He did not say whether the legal advice included that of Robert Abela, who was then an advisor to Muscat and also attended Cabinet meetings. Health Minister Chris Fearne said the judgment absolved him because prior to 2020, all contractual decisions on the hospitals concession continued being made by Konrad Mizzi even when he stopped being health minister. It is evident that the court judgment has serious political ramifications. On the one hand, it is a damn- ing indictment of the Muscat administration and all those who kept defending the hospitals deal. But on the other hand, it offers Abela the opportunity to sever all ties with his predecessor and cast his administration in a new light. At first instance the Prime Minister has a duty to explain what part he played in the hospitals concession deal, if at all, between 2015 and now. The public has a right to know. At second instance, he has a duty to take all neces- sary steps to ensure the judgment is respected and legal action started to recover public funds spent on this fraudulent deal. At third instance, Abela should ensure the organs of law and order take any action deemed appropriate to bring anyone who acted in a criminal way on this deal to justice. At fourth instance, the Prime Minister owes the pub- lic an honest apology for the mortal sins committed by his predecessor's administration. The ball rests squarely in Abela's court. This leader hopes the Prime Minister makes the choices that are in the country's best interest. 24 February 2013 Head of Security Service to face criminal charges after MaltaToday probe POLICE Commissioner John Rizzo has con- firmed that former Assistant Commissioner Godfrey Scicluna, who presently is the Head of the Malta Security Services, will be facing criminal charges. He only confirmed this after MaltaToday brought the incident to his atten- tion. Scicluna suspended himself over the allega- tions after the MaltaToday probe. The office of the Prime Minister yesterday said. "He has suspended himself from service until the procedures concerning the allegation of his involvement in the accidental and involuntary traffic incident." Scicluna is accused of having caused griev- ous bodily harm to an elderly man whom he ran over while driving. The commissioner last week confirmed to MaltaToday Sciclunas in- volvement in the car accident, which occurred in June 2012. The elderly man was rushed to mater Dei Hospital and underwent emergency medical treatment. Rizzo was asked my MaltaToday why no action has been taken against the Security Service chief Godfrey Scicluna as a result of this serious accident. Rizzo said he was not aware that Scicluna had been involved in an accident until Malta- Today raised the incident. The Security Service has been at the heart of high-profile investigation s, such as the phone tapping that led to the criminal charges for bribery against disgraced judge Ray Pace, but also recordings of former EU Commissioner John Dalli and businessman Silvio Zammit, who is being charged for bribery in the EU snus investigation that forced the resignation of Dalli. The MSS employ a unified legal intercep- tion system by Israeli firm Verint, to tap and record telephonic conversations by mobile and fixed line providers, which finance the interception system through annual fees. Apart from the Security Service, the police cybercrime unit at Floriana headquarters is also equipped to tap phones but does not fall under the Security Service. ... Quote of the Week "This is the Malta we want. Let us believe in justice, in the institutions. The fight for good, will always win." Opposition MP Adrian Delia after a court ruled in his favour and cancelled the Steward hospitals deal MaltaToday 10 years ago maltatoday | SUNDAY • 26 FEBRUARY 2023 CLASSIFIEDS & COMMERCIALS ARTS • TV • WHAT'S ON maltatoday Get the critical perspective on politics, culture and society Be the first to enjoy our print newspaper with a subscription When you need to decode what politicians are saying, when you want to understand why Malta's crazy construction industry is impacting upon your life, when you need to step out of the social media and understand the world from a different perspective, our journalists and columnists will provide you with expert reporting, analysis and commentary. Order now at https;// JAMES DEBONO FOUR blocks ranging from three to eight storeys in height are be- ing earmarked for the site of the Toyota showroom in Ħaż-Żeb- buġ, just 126 metres from the De Rohan arch. The Environment and Re- sources Authority is currently assessing which environmental studies are required to deter- mine the impact of the Michael Debono Limited project. The project includes a four-storey mall, with super- market, a six-storey car park for 384 spaces, an eight-storey office building, and another retail and office block of three storeys. There will be an over- all 20,500sq.m of offic- es, 6,300sq.m in retail, over 1,100sq.m for food and bev- erage establishments and a 961sq.m supermarket. The project will excavate 27,000 cubic meters of lime- stone, with the applicant ex- ploring the potential for reuse of the rock, on and off-site. Earlier plans for a 45m high- rise were scrapped. The three basement levels were reduced to one for 60 parking spaces. The entire 11,000sq.m site currently hosts the Toyota showroom and automative ser- vice stations. Michael Debono Limited's project statement from ADI environmental consultancy, warns of the increase in den- sity and overall height of the project, particularly the high- est, 30m-high building that will "extend the view-shed of the development" with implica- tions on views from the north and east, where Triq L-Imdina is elevated. The statement calls for great- er consideration on the impact of the setting of the Grade 1 scheduled De Rohan Arch, lo- cated just 126m away, as well as the wayside chapel immediate- ly opposite, despite this herit- age feature already "somewhat compromised by the develop- ment permitted around it". The study makes no refer- ence to the heritage value of the modernist showroom ear- marked for demolition, which back in 2019 was opposed by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage which had suggested restoration and in- tegration in any new project. The showroom had even been proposed for scheduling by the PA's cultural heritage advisory committee, which is chaired by the Superintendent for Cultur- al Heritage. The development's major im- pact will come from increased emissions from the daily, aver- age increase of 1,494 car trips. The study calls for careful con- sideration of traffic impacts, with measures to encourage green mobility, and to reduce the volume of private cars. The showroom is located in the Ħal-Mula Mixed-use Area, zoned for "retail uses, including showrooms and supermarkets, offices, food and drink outlets, assembly and leisure uses, and industrial uses and warehous- ing." Luke Coppini, CEO for the group's property arm, said the project was "a well-needed en- hancement to the quality of life of the Żebbuġ community" which would fuel the regener- ation of the entire Ħal Mula area. Eight-storey office, mall and supermarket for Toyota showroom Project includes a four-storey mall, with supermarket, a six-storey car park for 384 spaces, an eight- storey office building, and another retail and office block of three storeys The development's major impact will come from increased emissions from the daily, average increase of 1,494 car trips. The study calls for careful consideration of traffic impacts, with measures to encourage green mobility, and to reduce the volume of private cars

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