VALLETTA (Reuters) - Police searched the residence of former Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Wednesday as part of a probe into alleged corruption in a deal struck by his government that handed management of three state hospitals to the little-known Vitals Global Healthcare group in 2016.
Muscat confirmed the police search in a Facebook post, saying officers had turned up to search his house at 7 a.m. and had also confiscated his mobile phone as well as those of his wife and teenage daughters.
Times of Malta reported in November how the former prime minister received 60,000 euros ($68,000) from Accutor AG, a Swiss company linked to U.S. group Steward Health Care, which took over the hospitals contract from Vitals Global Healthcare in 2018.
The alleged payments have been included in the corruption probe, but Muscat has repeatedly insisted he had not done anything wrong.
"I was paid for consultancy work that was carried out after I left office, work which was not connected to Malta or to hospitals, and was fully documented and on which I paid tax," he said on Wednesday.
Times of Malta reported that police were at Muscat's residence in the rural village of Burmarrad, in the north of Malta, for over three hours.
Muscat said he was only 'half surprised' by the search, since he had been told that an opposition MP and lawyer had reportedly made remarks about a search in the previous few days. The search, he said was 'needless theatrics' and the fact that even the mobile phones of his teenage daughters had been seized was excessive.
He said that as soon as the story about his payments broke in November, he had prepared a file of documents, ready to hand to a magistrate, and he did so as soon as the police turned up.
The police have not commented.
Muscat resigned in January 2020 after media revealed that he and his chief of staff had a close friendship with top businessman Yorgen Fenech, who is awaiting trial for complicity in the 2017 car bomb murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Muscat has not been linked to the murder investigation.
($1 = 0.8810 euro)
(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; editing by Jonathan Oatis)