Medical visas scandal: More delays as courtroom unprepared to hear Libyan witnesses

A technical hitch has lead to the postponement of a sitting in which Libyan witnesses were due to testify against government official Neville Gafà, in the libel case he had filed against a local newspaper

Government official Neville Gafa had sued a newspaper after it carried reports that he was paid to obtain medical visas for Libyans seeking treatment in Malta
Government official Neville Gafa had sued a newspaper after it carried reports that he was paid to obtain medical visas for Libyans seeking treatment in Malta

A technical hitch has led to a court having to postpone a sitting in which Libyan witnesses were due to testify against government official Neville Gafà, in a libel case he had filed against a local newspaper over the Libyan medical visa scandal.

Gafà had sued The Malta Independent editor David Lindsay over a story which stated that a number of Libyan nationals were made to pay for medical visas for treatment in Malta, treatment that was meant to have been given free of charge under a bilateral agreement to treat Libyans wounded in the hostilities in their homeland.

The newspaper reported that “dozens” of Libyans alleged that they were made to make payments to government official Neville Gafà to secure their medical visas to enter Malta and be treated.

The newspaper’s reportage saw Gafà file two libel cases against the newspaper editor and a criminal libel case, which dropped as a result of a change in legislation that did away with criminal libel.

Gafà denies the accusations and claims that the only money he pocketed was his government salary.

Three witnesses, speaking on behalf of around 10 other Libyan nationals, were due to testify directly via the Skype call from Libya, in the course of today’s hearing in the libel cases.

During the last sitting in January, Ivan Grech Mintoff had been summoned to testify, declaring under cross-examination that the Libyan witnesses wanted to testify directly,  as they “did not trust the police in Malta.”

Magistrate Francecsco Depasquale was meant to hear a number of witnesses testify from Libya via Skype today, but when the case was called, it emerged that the necessary technical arrangements had not been made from the Maltese side. Sources explained to the MaltaToday that the Libyan men had been waiting at the other end of the line for the call.

In the last sitting, Grech Mintoff who had acted as a go-between with the Libyans had testified that the Libyan witnesses were being approached by Gafa and offered sums of money not to testify against him. The case was put off till the 18 May, raising concerns on the defence bench that this delay potentially gave more time to have witnesses suborned.

The case continues.

Legal Procurator Peter Paul Zammit is appearing for Gafà, while Lawyer Peter Fenech is counsel to Lindsay.

More in Court & Police