Luxury cars, hotel stays and private schools: how the people behind VGH spent their cash

People involved in Vitals Global Healthcare, which was entrusted with the running of three public hospitals in 2015, spent money on  luxury cars, five-star hotels and private schools, according to financial documents


People involved in Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH), which was entrusted with the running of three public hospitals in 2015, spent money on  luxury cars, five-star hotels and private schools, according to financial documents.

Over 22,000 financial documents, dating back to between October 2015 and January 2020, were obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and shared with Times of Malta and The Shift News.

Their investigation included film footage of St Luke's Hospital, which was one of three hospitals that were supposed to undergo a €200 million upgrade.

In 2021, the Auditor General called on the authorities to investigate concerns by the health ministry that funds meant for the running of the St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals were being funneled out of the government concession by VGH.

Documents show that VGH transferred at least €21 million to its Maltese parent company Bluestone Investments between 2016 and 2018. A few of those transactions were carried out on the same day that VGH received payments from the Maltese government as part of hospitals concession deal.

In 2022, VGH director Ram Tumuluri had told Times of Malta that VGH and Bluestone were both operating under the same management structure and were together spending funds in relation to the concession.

"Bluestone had contracts relating to the same concession for which it had to fulfil its contractual obligations, hence the funds were moved as intra-company transfers," Tumuluri had said via his lawyer.

In comments to OCCRP this week, Tumuluri said via a lawyer that Bluestone was financed by investors and shareholders, not the hospitals contract.

“The funds used for that spending were not VGH funds,” the lawyer said.


Hotels, restaurants and private schools

The investigation reveals that Bluestone's accounts were regularly used to pay for private spending.

Transactions involved range from over €5 million being wired to accounts and companies linked to VGH 'consultant' Shaukat Ali and his family members, to over 150 ATM cash withdrawals amounting to €54,000.

The financial documents that Bluestone also payed for private schools in Malta and Switzerland, veterinary fees, stays at a Hilton hotel in Montenegro and restaurant bills amounting to €1,000.

Vitals and Bluestone were run by Tumuluri, with his backer Mark Pawley also acting as a director.

OCCRP said Tumuluri claimed that he had a contract with Bluestone that included “the provision for personal expenses and school fees for my children”.

He reiterated that these payments came from “investor sources” and not public money.

The investigation revealed that the people behind Vitals splashed a total of €248,000 at Kind’s Auto Sales, the local agents for Mercedes Benz.

The money was spent on leasing cars, including top-of-the-range models like the Mercedes S-class.

An additional €180,000 were spent on point-of-sale purchases, including Netflix subscriptions, payments at beauty salons, clothing shops and grocery purchases.

The financial records also show cash withdrawals from ATMs in Balluta, Sliema's Dingli Street, and The Point shopping mall, and other cash withdrawals in Zurich, Switzerland, amounting to €54,000 between 2015 and 2017.

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