Magistrate recommends police investigate former OPM official Neville Gafà over bribery claims

Magistrate dismisses two libel cases filed by Neville Gafà, urges police to investigate claims that the former official within the Office of the Prime Minister had attempted to bribe witnesses

Neville Gafà
Neville Gafà

A magistrate has urged the police to investigate claims that a former official in the Office of the Prime Minister, Neville Gafà, had attempted to bribe witnesses.

This emerged from two judgments handed down by Magistrate Victor Axiak this morning, deciding libel proceedings that Gafà had filed against The Malta Independent in 2016, over two stories which detailed how he had made millions from a medical visa scam targeting Libyan nationals injured or wounded during the country’s civil war.

Gafà worked in the OPM during the Joseph Muscat administration and also acted as the Maltese government's unofficial envoy to Libya, during which he brokered arrangements to minimise migrant arrivals. Gafà was removed when Robert Abela became prime minister.

The stories, 'Receipts show €35,000 in payments made to Neville Gafà by Libyan middleman' and 'Government official was netting up to €150,000 a month in medical visa scam', describe how Gafà had introduced himself as a representative of Malta’s health system to 12 Libyan nationals, who had been wounded in the Libyan civil war and had demanded large sums of money for medical treatment. 

This was at a time when the Maltese government had been offering free treatment to casualties of the conflict.

The articles, penned by former Independent on Sunday editor David Lindsay, stated Gafà had been charging patients a monthly fee of around €2,500 to secure medical visas, treatment and accommodation, along with an additional €100 charge.

Five of those patients had testified via Skype during the proceedings. 

They also claimed that not only were the articles factual but that Gafà had also subsequently travelled to Libya and offered them money so as not to testify against him.

Deciding on both cases, Magistrate Victor Axiak dismissed Gafà’s claims, upholding the newspaper’s argument that the claims were true and constituted fair comment.

The magistrate also made a recommendation to the Police Commissioner, asking him to investigate the witnesses’ allegations of Gafà attempting to “buy their silence.”

The court stressed that this recommendation did not mean that Gafà had been proven to have engaged in illegal activity, and the presumption of innocence applied. 

This could only and must only be dealt with in the competent forum, the court said.

Lindsay was represented by lawyer Peter Fenech. Lawyer Peter Paul Zammit was counsel to Gafà.