Health visa fraud charges: civil servant’s BMW still registered in his name

Civil servant’s BMW vehicle is still registered in his name despite having told court it had been replaced after traffic accident

A Transport Malta official has told a court that a grey BMW, registered by civil servant Neville Gafa in April 2015, as still registered in his name to the present day, despite Gafa having told the court it had been replaced as part of a deal with its importer following a traffic accident.

The official testified this morning in the compilation of evidence against Khaled Ben Nasan, the Syrian-born middleman at the centre of the Libyan medical visas scandal.

Ben Nasan is being charged with fraud and extortion, after he had accused Gafa, a health ministry official, of “masterminding” a racket involving the issuance of medical visas to Libyan nationals last year.

In a previous sitting, Gafa told the court that Ben Nasan had tried to blackmail him.

Gafa was investigated by the police in 2016, over claims that he had accepted bribes to facilitate the approval of medical visas for Libyan citizens seeking medical care in Malta.

Gafa strongly denied the allegations and sued the Malta Independent for libel after it published an article claiming that he had pocketed some €38,000 for medical visas, which never materialized.

An article in the Times of Malta reported that businessman Ben Nasan had written to then minister without portfolio Konrad Mizzi, claiming that Gafà had been accepting bribes to issue medical visas.

The claims were investigated by the police who later declared that it had not found enough evidence to press charges.

A police witness had undermined Ben Nasan’s case in a sitting last July, telling the magistrate how, in August 2016, a criminal complaint had been filed by Ben Nasan, in which the Syrian had alleged that he had been called by a person who had threatened him and his children. The threats were linked to the Libyan visa scandal and police protection was sought.

But when the police had looked into the mobile phone calls, they found that the phone number on which Ben Nasan had received the calls, had not received any calls at the time period he specified.

Ben Nasan later filed another report about an SMS from the same numbers, which had called him the month before. The message was traced to a contract phone that had been registered to Ben Nasan himself, two months before. The Syrian claimed he had given the device to someone else.

The official told Magistrate Doreen Clarke how a search into Transport Authority records had confirmed that Gafa had registered a grey BMW in his name in April, 2015. Official records showed that up to present day, Gafa was still the registered owner of the vehicle.

In a previous sitting, Gafa had been examined by the defence on the subject of a BMW that he had purchased at the time that the alleged racket was operating. He testified to having bought such a car in June 2014, but after a traffic accident in April 2015, had come to an agreement with a second-hand car dealer to replace the grey BMW with a black one, instead of paying for the repairs.

Defence lawyer Leslie Cuschieri, who is counsel to Ben Nasan, requested the court order the transport official to conduct a fresh search by name rather than by vehicle registration number so as to determine whether Gafa owned any other BMWs, so as to completely eliminate the possibility of error.

The case continues.

Police Inspector Doriette Cuschieri is prosecuting. Lawyer Leslie Cuschieri is defence counsel to Ben Nasan. Legal Procurator Peter Paul Zammit appeared parte civile for Neville Gafa.

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