Malta’s Deputy PM Resigns Over Fraud Scandal

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Malta’s Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne — previously tipped to be the country’s next European Commissioner — resigned Friday after being charged with fraud in a hospital privatisation scandal.



“I want to be clear, I am taking this step not because I have any doubts about my innocence, but because this is the right thing to do”, he wrote in his resignation letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela.



Fearne also requested his name be withdrawn for European Commissioner.


The resignation came five days after Fearne was charged along with Malta’s former premier Joseph Muscat and the central bank chief in a scandal which has rocked the Mediterranean island nation.


Muscat and one of his ex-ministers, Konrad Mizzi, were charged with accepting bribes, corruption in public office and money laundering, while Fearne was charged with fraud, misappropriation and fraudulent gain.


Fearne denies any wrongdoing and remains a member of parliament.



In the resignation letter, which he published on Facebook, Fearne slammed the charges against him as “unjust” and said proof of his wrongdoing was “inexistent” but he felt a duty to the country to resign.



“The only thing that I humbly hope for is that the judicial process is led in an expedited manner so that I can clean my name as quickly as possible, and so I can be in a position to serve my country if I am called upon again,” he said.



Abela urged Fearne to reconsider his resignation, saying that he had “full faith” in him.


The case dates back to the decision by Muscat’s Labour government in 2015 to transfer management of three public hospitals to a private company, Vitals Global Healthcare.



The company had no healthcare experience and after 21 months it sold the concession to another company, Steward Health Care, without having made the promised investments.



Following a challenge by the opposition Nationalist party, a court last year annulled the privatisation deal, finding evidence of fraudulent behaviour.



A criminal investigation was launched in 2019. It concluded last month with the magistrate recommending that charges be brought.


Fearne was the only current minister to be charged, although the governor of Malta’s Central Bank Edward Scicluna — who was finance minister when the deal was struck — has also been charged with fraud and misappropriation.



He is yet to comment on the charges, but remains in his post.



















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