Former PM says the wire transfers were for consultancy work he carried out.
An inquiry into the hospitals’ deal has been handed a “dossier” detailing alleged wrongdoing by the man behind suspicious payments to former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
British private investigator Greg Gillespie was last Monday flown into Malta by the authorities to testify about documents and data he compiled as part of a probe he carried out into the Swiss-based firm Accutor AG, which is run by Pakistani national Wasay Bhatti.
Muscat’s home and office were searched in January over €60,000 worth of payments the former prime minister received from Accutor AG, a company that in turn received millions in payments linked to the hospitals deal.
Both Muscat and Bhatti strongly deny any wrongdoing.
Gillespie, who runs a UK-based corporate intelligence firm, told Times of Malta the investigation he carried out into alleged impropriety involving Accutor AG and Bhatti had found “significant links” to Malta.
He said analysis of the information in question uncovered connections with key individuals and companies involved in the hospitals’ deal.
Accutor was involved in payments to former Vitals frontman Ram Tumuluri in 2018, as well as payments to former Vitals shareholder Shaukat Ali and his family members in 2018 and 2019.
The documentation obtained by Gillespie pre-date the 2020 Accutor payments to Muscat.
Times of Malta revealed in November how the former prime minister received four payments of €15,000 each from companies controlled by Bhatti, just weeks after stepping down from government.
Muscat says the wire transfers were for legitimate consultancy work he carried out for Bhatti.
However, the timing of these payments, coupled with Accutor AG’s receipt of funds from the controversial Vitals Global Healthcare hospitals’ deal, has raised suspicions over whether Muscat’s consultancy contract was a way to disguise potentially corrupt transactions.
'Malta an area of concern'
Gillespie says his investigation of Accutor AG raises questions about the company’s integrity, as it was involved in various transactions of a suspicious nature linked to the hospitals’ scandal.
“It seemed to be the right thing to put it all together in a dossier, to make sure the authorities have access to it.
“It was important that the authorities saw the information and evidence we have, because we knew it was not in the public domain. It contains hard data and third-party evidence that we felt the magistrate should be made aware of,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie says his investigation into Accutor AG initially related to payroll, but soon branched out to various other areas internationally.
“From that, we found other areas of concern, of which Malta was one. The initial focus was on Accutor AG and Wasay Bhatti. Then from that, we uncovered links to Malta and links to the VGH hospitals scandal,” Gillespie said.
The inquiry into the Vitals deal was triggered by a 2019 complaint by rule of law NGO Repubblika.
Vitals, which brought together a group of investors with no prior track record in healthcare, was handed the running of the St Luke’s, Gozo and Karin Grech hospitals by the government in 2015.
A National Audit Office investigation had found significant failings in the deal, concluding that the original concessionaire, VGH, should have been barred from winning the hospitals’ contract due to “collusive behaviour” with the government.
Source: Times of Malta