Fact-check: Did PN open a court case against Chris Fearne? - Featured image

Fact-check Malta: Did PN open a court case against Chris Fearne?

Speaking to journalists on Monday evening, shortly after news emerged of a Steward-orchestrated “frame-up” on former Health Minister Chris Fearne, Prime Minister Robert Abela claimed that the opposition had opened a court case against Fearne that was still pending.

Abela was replying to a question by a journalist from NET, the Nationalist Party’s (PN) media house, referring to a statement issued by the opposition condemning the frame-up. Reports of the frame-up revealed that Fearne had been the target of a smear campaign allegedly funded by US healthcare giant Steward, which was in control of three of Malta’s public hospitals at a time when Fearne was health minister.

“Do you know what the Nationalist Party doesn’t say in its statement? That Mr Fearne has a pending court case, opened by (opposition leader) Bernard Grech and (former opposition leader) Adrian Delia, in which they are seeking action against Fearne in his personal capacity, along with several other people,” Abela retorted.

Many were puzzled by Abela’s interview, lost in the mire of court cases linked to the hospitals case and unsure of which case Abela was referring to.

But others were quick to jump on the claim, repeating it in social media posts and saying that Bernard Grech had a pending court case against Fearne.

Many seemingly took Abela’s words to mean that PN had opened a court case directly against Fearne.

In a Facebook post published on Tuesday, Adrian Delia described Abela’s claim as a “lie”.

“Abela should say where and when I opened a case against Chris Fearne or withdraw his lie,” he said.

A statement issued by Cabinet later in the day added some more nuance to the claim.

“The Cabinet notes that there is currently a case in front of Malta’s courts opened by the leader of the opposition against the State Advocate, the consequence of which, among other things, is that action is sought against Chris Fearne in his personal capacity,” the statement said.

What does this all refer to?

Late last year, opposition leader Bernard Grech and PN MP Adrian Delia filed a court case calling on the State Advocate to recover funds defrauded through the scrapped hospitals deal.

PN’s case argues that, after the courts had declared the deal fraudulent, the State Advocate is duty-bound to take action to recover the funds on his own steam, without waiting for direction from the government.

In a harshly-worded rebuttal, the State Advocate accused Grech and Delia of trying to mislead the courts to score political points.

The case is still ongoing.

State Advocate Chris Soler (left) at the swearing in of Transport Minister Chris Bonett. File photo: Chris Sant Fournier

How does Fearne feature in the case?

PN’s eight-page court filing only mentions Fearne once by name, listing him as one of several government representatives named in the case by a court of appeals in turning down an appeal filed by Steward (the others are Joseph Muscat, Chris Cardona, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Robert Abela and Edward Scicluna),

The case goes on to repeat several claims made by the court of appeals, including that government representatives had failed to carry out their duty to safeguard the country’s interests and acted in collusion with Vitals and Steward.

But Fearne is never singled out, nor are there direct references to his alleged role in the affair.

How about indirectly?

The case does collectively refer to the top government officials listed by the court of appeals (one of which is Fearne), on several occasions, although it doesn’t point fingers directly at any one specific individual.

In one article, the filing argues that, following the court’s sentence the State Advocate is duty-bound to take up civil action against anyone who “directly or indirectly” contributed to the fraud.

In another, Grech and Delia argue that “the persons who have authorised or acted in a corrupt manner […] and have also failed to prevent these acts must be personally and jointly liable for the damage suffered”.

Ultimately, the case argues that the courts should instruct the State Advocate to “act against the highest exponents of the Maltese Government both present and past in line with the sentence handed down by the court of appeals”.


The court case opened by Bernard Grech and Adrian Delia is against the State Advocate, not Chris Fearne. PN has not opened any court case directly against Chris Fearne.

The case calls on the State Advocate to take action against “top government officials” named in a sentence handed down by the appeals’ court last October, in which the court turned down Steward’s request to reverse the original court decision to scrap the hospitals concession.

PN’s case argues that these top government officials, one of whom is Fearne, should be held “personally and jointly liable” for damages, asking the State Advocate to open civil action against them.

The Times of Malta fact-checking service forms part of the Mediterranean Digital Media Observatory (MedDMO) and the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO), an independent observatory with hubs across all 27 EU member states that is funded by the EU’s Digital Europe programme. Fact-checks are based on our code of principles

Let us know what you would like us to fact-check, understand our ratings system or see our answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the service.


Fact Checker Logo

Fact Check, Politics

Author(s): Neville Borg

Originally published here.