When Chris Fearne took a short break to acknowledge Tim Sebastian’s reach-around last week, he lifted his hands up in the air, the palms of his hands away from him, his fingers fanned out, and clarified he did not personally sign the Vitals deal to sell three Maltese hospitals to a company owned by someone with eyes without a face who had never owned a hospital before.
Those physical gestures are what confidence tricksters call ‘tells’. That moment was probably the only one throughout that interview when Chris Fearne knew more than the journalist.
He knew that the people who bought the hospitals were flipping them to a new buyer. This new owner of three of our hospitals knows something about hospitals though only in the United States. The Prime Minister tried to present this as a good thing: that Malta “attracted” this Steward Health Care outside of the United States with its first investment anywhere else. Now if there are two different things between Europe and the United States those would be the lethal injection and the provision of healthcare.
A frustrated MEP speaking a few weeks ago said Joseph Muscat’s government privatised public space. He didn’t yet know then that three of our hospitals are abandoning the national welfare model of Europe and being sold to a profit-driven conglomerate.
A conglomerate that, incidentally, got into trouble with its own regulators in Massachusetts this year for keeping its financial data secret and hidden from its regulators. Now why am I not surprised.
As Vitals walk out of their deal with Malta we still do not know who their ultimate beneficial owner is. We do not know how much that owner is profiting from a straight flip with our assets. We do not know how much money has been made on the back of the resources built in this country over decades of locally funded tax-payers’ money.
Once again the secrecy that everything is buried under gives rise to more than suspicion. It leads to certainty that someone we don’t know made we don’t know how much money as a result of their friendship, or oneness, with the government.
We are reminded of the appointment of John Dalli as consultant to the government on the health sector upon his return from disgrace in Brussels and absolution by Joseph Muscat’s replacement of John Rizzo who as Commissioner of Police wanted to put him behind bars.
We are reminded of the summary political execution of Godfrey Farrugia as Health Minister and his replacement by the Mr Spock of the Panama Gang, Konrad Mizzi.
We are reminded of the deal sealed with crook Ram Tumuluri with a pre-selected outfit whose expertise in the health provision sector compares unfavourably with mine.
And now we see that the CEO of Vitals, Armin Ernst, was at exactly the same time and for the last two years, also Chief Administrative Officer of the Steward Medical Group, therefore simultaneously employed by vendor and buyer of this deal.
And we see the deal, negotiated and struck in secret, closed in a rush ahead of the new anti-money laundering rules that come into effect in the new year that could have been used to finally reveal the identity of the real owner of Vitals.
We are standing in front of a bank. A van with dark windows has its engine running on the doorstep. The bank’s main glass door is shattered. Men in balaclavas and armed with sawn off shotguns are shouting orders to clients and staff prostate on the floor. The alarm bell screams. And Joseph Muscat the branch manager is on the doorstep telling us there’s nothing to see here. Move along.