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NEWS | Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Frank Portelli alleges ‘paid commissions’, Josie denies

Matthew Vella

The owner of private hospital St James, Josie Muscat – leader of right-wing Azzjoni Nazzjonali – has denied allegations by Frank Portelli, chief executive of the other private hospital St Philip’s, of having paid commissions to doctors for the provision of patients.
Portelli, the former president of the Nationalist Party general council, was categorical in claims that Muscat “corrupted” doctors with commissions, in an interview on PBS’s Reporter.
He said Muscat had built “an empire based on a system… by corrupting professionals through commissions, not professional fees, for sending patients” to his hospital.
He was reacting to an article penned by the AN leader, in which Muscat said the people had lost trust in various members of society, including professionals.
Portelli, saying that doctors were professionals too, said he was “quite amazed… you have the leader of a new party who says he wants to mend things and that there is no trust in professionals… no wonder people have no trust.”
Asked to substantiate his serious allegation, Portelli said he himself had received a commission from Muscat’s clinic sometime in 1992 or 1993, for having referred a patient to his clinic.
On his part, a cool Josie Muscat sounded unfazed by the allegations when contacted by MaltaToday yesterday.
“There’s a medical council where Frank Portelli can throw mud at me, and he can take it there if he has any evidence. I’m certainly not going through the trouble of taking anyone up to court,” Muscat said. “He can say what he likes, if he has any evidence of what he is saying. But he is certainly a coward if he has nothing to base it upon. I don’t care what he said. I know his character.”
Asked for his comments on whether he had paid a commission to Portelli himself, Muscat said: “I don’t know about it. We don’t pay commissions.”
He also added that commissions to doctors were wrong. “Certainly, it is a wrong to pay commissions to a doctor, because it’s a bribe for someone to give you more business.”
The outspoken Frank Portelli had previously alleged that a member on the adjudicating board for the granting of tenders at Mater Dei hospital had himself submitted a tender through a company in which he had an interest. “This individual proceeded to take documents – some seven box loads of site plans, building plans, and bills of quantities, to a photocopying centre in Valletta – when he had no authority to neither copy nor retain a copy for his own personal use. No doubt this documentation would give him and his company an unfair advantage when submitting tenders for the Mater Dei.”
He has already been summoned to the police depot for questioning about his allegations that “commissions” had been paid over the construction of Mater Dei.

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