The Neville Gafà affair

That was how Muscat played the double game – by exercising what was in effect a pushback before migrant boats entered Malta’s SAR area, and playing the innocent virgin when some did

Was Neville Gafà Joseph Muscat’s rogue secret agent, involving himself in secret “operations” regarding migrants leaving Libya without the official blessing of Malta but with the full cognizance of the then Prime Minister?
Was Neville Gafà Joseph Muscat’s rogue secret agent, involving himself in secret “operations” regarding migrants leaving Libya without the official blessing of Malta but with the full cognizance of the then Prime Minister?

Was Neville Gafà Joseph Muscat’s rogue secret agent, involving himself in secret “operations” regarding migrants leaving Libya without the official blessing of Malta but with the full cognizance of the then Prime Minister?

So it seems.

It is not known whether Gafà had contacts in Libya before he was appointed as some type of consultant with the then-Prime Minister and entrusted to coordinate the issue of medical visas for Libyans needing medical attention provided in Malta. Allegations of wrongdoing in this capacity were never cleared up. With the situation being what it has been in Libya for the last few years, someone asking for money in return of medical visas would not surprise anyone. Taking the money and failing to provide the visa would then be just a collateral.

To be sure, funny business with regards to the issuing of visas for Libyans was not something that started to happen after Muscat assumed power in 2013. The same sort of thing was also happening under the previous PN administration.

Again, no one was ever accused of anything in this regard.

Except for Neville Gafà, who was accused of doing just that – not by the Maltese police but by Ivan Grech Mintoff, leader of Alleanza Bidla, a very small political party that that has never made any significant gains in elections or in opinion polls.

In June 2018, during the hearings of a libel case Gafà had instituted against the Malta Independent, Grech Mintoff submitted in court, transcripts and a hefty document detailing how the alleged racket was conducted, to back his claims of high-level corruption. The document contained assertions and testimony on the alleged illegal sale of Schengen visas at the Maltese consulate in Tripoli and on the issuance of Humanitarian Medical Visas by Neville Gafà, then an official of the Prime Minister’s office.

The documents also claimed that there were indications that medical visas, which should have been issued for free, were instead sold with Gafà allegedly charging €3,000 per medical visa. The documents also claimed that five Libyans were willing to testify that Gafà had asked them for money in exchange for visas, but the named witness had not been contacted by the police despite their claims.

According to Grech Mintoff, Gafà – who denied all the allegations – had even visited Libya to attempt to persuade these witnesses not to testify against him. The documents Grech Mintoff submitted in court can be accessed on the Alleanza Bidla website.

The health minister and the then-foreign minister denied that Gafà was employed in their ministries but somehow or other, Neville Gafà weathered the storm, presumably being protected by none other than Joseph Muscat.

With the end of Joseph Muscat, Gafà reportedly found himself out of the power loop.

Suddenly, we now find that Gafà was involved in a recent secret – but unofficial – operation to stop African migrants coming from Libya and ending up in Malta.

Testifying in a magisterial inquiry made at the behest of the NGO Repubblika, Gafà recently claimed that in the past he had ‘coordinated’ the pushback of migrant boats. This more recent operation involved a privately-owned Maltese boat but no official AFM vessel. The government – now led by Robert Abela – denied that Gafà did this on behalf of the Maltese government, although it admitted it had asked Gafà for ‘help’ in view of his Libyan contacts. It also felt it had to point out that he was not paid for this operation.

Again, the foreign minister was apparently unaware of the OPM’s involvement in this operation. In a clear reference to the new foreign minister Evarist Bartolo, Gafà said it was pointless to rant on Facebook each morning.

Gafà was then contacted by Illum newspaper and asked to explain exactly his role in this latest operation. He again reiterated that he was engaged by the OPM to co-ordinate the operation directly with Libya’s interior ministry and the Libyan coastguard.

Testifying in the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, Gafà had claimed that he had ‘stopped’ thousands of migrants from arriving in Malta; and in Illum he boasted that the problem can only be solved in the way ‘they’ used to solve it – meaning when Muscat was the PM – when, as he claimed, ‘they’ kept the situation under control.

This was no longer happening under Robert Abela, Gafà claimed, and since January the situation was no longer kept under control, meaning the co-ordination with Libyan authorities has dissipated. Gafà continued to ‘explain’ that this ‘co-ordination’ was not a pushback since it involved migrant boats being stopped from entering into the search and rescue (SAR) area for which Malta is responsible.

So the game was intercepting migrant boats by private Maltese vessels or official Libyan vessels, before the migrant boats entered Malta’s SAR area!

That was how Muscat played the double game – by exercising what was in effect a pushback before migrant boats entered Malta’s SAR area, and playing the innocent virgin when some did. Could this be one of the reasons why the EU is now ignoring ‘little’ Malta’s predicament?

Accidental death

A man died on Friday night last week following an incident at his residence in Żabbar during which the police used a stun gun to contain him.

It seems that after a stand-off lasting several hours, the police convinced the man to come out of his house, but he again became aggressive towards a doctor – who had been asked to come from the Paola Health Centre – and went back upstairs and moved towards a window.

Police from the Rapid Intervention Unit used a stun gun to stop the man while the doctor administered an injection to calm him down. Knocked unconscious, he was then given medical assistance in an ambulance and around 11pm, he was escorted by the police to Mater Dei Hospital.

Shortly afterwards, he was pronounced dead.

Frankly, these are the sort of circumstances that lead me to suspect that there was an obvious over-reaction to the man’s tantrum and that his death could have been avoided.

The press, however, treated it as yet another run of the mill incident.

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