Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Economy Minister Chris Cardona have filed an urgent appeal following a decree by magistrate Doreen Clarke which cleared the way for a criminal inquiry to be held into their part in the Vitals Global Healthcare deal.
Clarke had decreed on Wednesday that an application by civil society group Repubblika which requested an inquiry into allegations of complicity in criminal acts with regards to the Vitals Global Healthcare hospitals deal by the three ministers, ought to be upheld in the light of fresh evidence.
This evidence about the conduct of the ministers in the sale of the St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo state hospitals, had been deemed sufficient by the court to refer the matter to another Magistrate, who is currently investigating Ivan Vassallo, who owns hospital supply company Technoline.
The appeal was filed two days after the decree was handed down. In it, the ministers ask the Criminal Court to revoke the magistrate’s decree on several grounds.
Firstly, the ministers argued that by sending the matter to another magistrate, Magistrate Clarke had exceeded the parameters of the original application by Repubblika who, they said, had only asked the Magistrate to decide on whether there were grounds for an inquiry or not.
Secondly, they said, the application was identical to a previous one filed by the group, involving the same parties and subject matter, which had been dismissed by Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti on October 3.
The appellants claimed that Repubblika’s intention was clearly to file as many appeals as necessary until it obtained the outcome it wanted.
The appellants denied corruption and fraud, arguing that the material subject of the crime – a requirement for the holding of an inquiry in genere, was absent.
Dismissing the civil society group’s mammoth 109-page application as merely speculation based on news articles, journalistic opinions, blogs and conjecture, the ministers claimed that prerequisites necessary for the inquiry were not present, asking the Criminal Court to overturn the magisterial decree which authorised the inquiry.
Lawyers Aron Mifsud Bonnici and Christopher Vella signed the appeal.