Neville Gafa: Medical visas issued after due diligence process

Neville Gafa told magistrate Francesco Depasquale he had been employed by the health ministry to coordinate the medical visa scheme, aimed at transporting Libyan people injured as a result of the region’s instability

Neville Gafa
Neville Gafa

The former Health Ministry employee at the centre of an alleged Libyan medical visa racket has vehemently denied the allegations, saying he felt “hurt” by allegations that sick Libyan children had been denied visas in favour of paying applicants. 

Neville Gafa testified in a libel case he filed against David Lindsay, editor of The Malta Independent on Sunday. Lindsay is the subject of separate criminal libel proceedings which had been instituted after Gafa had filed a complaint with the police.

“After claims were made that I was pocketing €150,000 per week, I felt defamed and more than that I felt shocked... no evidence was provided. I always carried out my work properly and the only money I received came in the form of my government salary.”

Gafa told magistrate Francesco Depasquale that had been employed by the health ministry to coordinate the medical visa scheme aimed at transporting Libyan people injured as a result of the region’s instability and treat them safely in Malta.

The project was headed by Gafa from August 2014. By May 2016, he said that he was transferred to a post based in Gozo after the allegations against him came to light.

Explaining the health visa issuing process, Gafa said that after two separate departments review the applications and a due diligence process is carried out, the application, together with a €66 administration fee, is sent to the Central Visa Unit.

Only after that is the individual brought over to Malta.

Gafa said that he was most hurt by the Malta Independent’s allegations that sick children were denied the possibility of coming to Malta because of the alleged medical visa racket.

The articles had made him out to look like a criminal he said.

A right of reply he had sent following the newspaper’s first report had been “buried” inside the newspaper, he claimed.

The article Gafa objected to, alleged that he had made up to €3 million from a racket involving medical visas for injured Libyans - up to €150,000 a month.

The article cites high-ranking Libyan sources that came forward to speak with this newsroom after the Times of Malta broke the story.

A follow-up article published by the same newspaper published copies of notes, purporting to be receipts, that appear to show payments of close to €35,000 to Gafa between August 2015 and October 2015.

The article reads that “A carbon copy book of hand-written receipts, which are alleged to have been issued by Libyan middleman Khaled Ben Nasan to Mr Gafà, was shown to The Malta Independent on Sunday. The top of each hand-written receipt clearly indicates ‘To Neville’, and goes on to list the names of the ‘patients’, their Libyan identity card numbers and the total payments made from each batch of applicants.”

In court today, Gafa denied ever seeing the receipts before the Independent on Sunday ran the story, saying he had no idea about what was written on the receipts as it had been written in Arabic script, which he does not understand.

Inspector Rennie Stivala also took the witness stand, to say that he would be unable to testify in detail due to pending investigations.

He could not say whether the people named in the receipts had eventually been issued a medical visa.

The case continues in March.