Police raid ex-Prime Minister’s home in Burmarrad

Home of the Muscat family at 52B, Triq San Pawl Milqi, Burmarrad. (Photo: Continentaleurope )

Police raid Joseph Muscat’s residence as part of the Vitals corruption investigation. Mobile phones and a file were taken, despite Muscat’s claim that he was only “half shocked.”

Financial crime detectives raided Dr Joseph Muscat’s Burmarrad house at 7 a.m. on Wednesday as part of a corruption investigation into the Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) hospitals agreement. The Police were on the scene for at least three hours, confiscating the former prime minister’s phone, as well as those of his wife Michelle and their 2 children.

The Police search is said to have been part of an investigation to see if Accutor AG payments into Muscat’s Bank of Valletta account may be related to wrongdoing in the hospital transaction. The search was carried out under the ambit of a magisterial inquiry triggered by rule of law NGO ‘Repubblika’ in 2019.

The Times of Malta disclosed in November last year  that the former prime minister received €60,000 from Accutor AG, a business that earned millions from Steward Healthcare when it took over the management of three public hospitals from VGH. A consultant contract Muscat signed with an Accutor AG representative only weeks after standing down as prime minister in January 2020 is important to the inquiry. The former prime minister resigned in 2020 in the face of popular outrage over the death of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Former Prime Minister, Dr Joseph Muscat
(Photo: Arne Müseler / www.arne-mueseler.com )

Although the payments unexpectedly ceased in June 2020, the contract’s rolling structure suggests Muscat might have been set to collect hundreds of thousands of euros over a number of years. Investigators believe that the proximity of the contract signing to Muscat’s resignation suggests that the payments plan was pre-agreed upon when the former prime minister was still in office.

The payments were distributed in four monthly instalments, two from Accutor AG and two from Spring X Media. Both of these businesses were controlled by lawyer Wasay Bhatti and shared a Swiss address. According to Swiss banking and accounting documents seen by the Times of Malta, Steward Healthcare transmitted a total of €3.6 million to Accutor. The majority of them — €2.49 million – were paid on February 20, 2018. On the same day, the American healthcare corporation announced that it had completed the public-private partnership to take over the management of three of Malta’s hospitals from Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH).

Muscat offered investigators a file full of paperwork he had been preparing since last November to support the overseas trips taken in relation to the job he claims was done in exchange for Accutor AG payments, which had nothing to do with the Maltese hospitals.

He told a Times of Malta journalist he invited in after the search, that he was only “half surprised” by the search, and that the “needless theatrics” were likely intended to “humiliate” him. For some days, rumours about the search had circulated in political circles, with Muscat reportedly aware that investigators were planning to raid his residence. This is because Muscat claimed to have received information from “inside the Nationalist Party” that PN MP Dr  Jason Azzopardi was informing others about the intended search.

The former Prime Minister called the Police search action as “theatrics” to try and “humiliate” him and defined “excessive” the seizure of his daughters’ mobile phones. He also implied that the search was organised by someone who “intended to pass on a message,” but he did not clarify more, but said that His trust in the investigation had been shaken after his original offer to testify regarding the money had been rejected in November.