Sometimes, amid the depressing immutability of our situation, there are brief moments of temporary delight, cool pecks on the cheek like memories of mother’s comforting kisses.
I remember reading about the taped conversation between Yorgen Fenech and Melvyn Theuma while they were discussing nervously the crowds gathering in Valletta. What pleasure it was to hear that without specific knowledge of it, the discomfort we hoped to cause to Daphne’s killers was indeed being felt.
We got something similar today. Steward Health Care published documentary evidence to support their argument that they didn’t defraud the government, as a court found a few days ago. If anything, the government defrauded them.
Their argument is that Joseph Muscat’s people told them to take on Vitals and promised them their liability for Vital’s debts would be capped at €3 million. Steward were complaining that they hadn’t had time to conduct proper due diligence in the business they were buying. But Joseph Muscat was in a great hurry.
That last month that Vitals were in business they didn’t even have enough money to pay salaries and they put up St Luke’s and Gozo General hospitals as collateral for a pay day loan. They were either going to allow the hospitals to be taken away to pay for the debts or they were going to find a new owner.
‘Don’t worry!’ Joseph Muscat’s government kept telling Steward. The communications were coming mostly in the form of emails from Keith Schembri who sent repeated reassurances to Steward that the Maltese government would step in to cover Vitals’ mess if only Steward agreed to sign up quickly the takeover of the hospitals.
The emails, at least judging by the ones Steward chose to publish, appear to suggest that Steward put aside its misgivings on the back of the assurances given it by Joseph Muscat’s team, with Keith Schembri on top. ‘We’re trusting the prime minister of Malta. What could possibly go wrong?’
Bear with me while I pause to wipe away the tears of laughter.
After Steward took over the hospitals, they asked the government to live up to its promises. Chris Fearne, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Joseph Muscat all worked from multiple fronts to reach a deal with Steward that would change the terms of the original concession to make it profitable and favourable to the new American owners.
There was a lot of toing and froing, a lot of blackmail and a little bit of extortion, many emails and online meetings, and days and nights and weekends hammering out a deal.
Until finally, over an informal handshake, a date was set to sign the agreement. They agreed to meet on 27 November 2019 to sign the “real deal” which had been announced almost a year earlier.
Do you remember that day?
Where were you on 27 November 2019? Let me jog your memory.
That morning Keith Schembri was arrested just as he left Joseph Muscat’s home after an all-nighter by his buddy. Joseph Muscat went to his office to announce his chief of staff’s resignation (and arrest). That same afternoon Konrad Mizzi resigned as well.
The pressure of near daily protests in Valletta had finally brought Muscat’s government to the brink of collapse.
And while Steward waited outside the Tourism Ministry, with multiple copies of the contract that would have made them millions in profits out of the inheritance of the corrupt privatisation of the hospitals, sans the liabilities, they could no longer find the minister who promised them to come sign their deal. Konrad Mizzi was gone.
When they called Keith Schembri on the phone to see what happened they couldn’t get through. Keith Schembri was in the nick, and he had “lost” his phone that day.
There are bones I didn’t know could be tickled that are in rapture at the thought that, not quite consciously, when we were protesting in Valletta those heady November days we were, among other things, messing up the greedy, colonising plans of that bunch of blood-thirsty hospital-abandoning vultures.
We often seek to save our country while most people don’t know it. Sometimes we save our country without knowing it ourselves.
Now put the kettle on and watch this again.