Updated | PN condemns ‘farcical’ police investigation into medical visa racket

PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami urges Attorney General to grant immunity from prosecution to businessman who exposed alleged racket into issuance of medical visas to Libyan patients

PN condemns 'farcical' police investigation into medical visa racket
PN condemns 'farcical' police investigation into medical visa racket
PN condemns 'farcical' police investigation into medical visa racket

The Nationalist Party has lashed out at the police for what it claimed was a “farcical” investigation that cleared a health ministry official from masterminding an alleged racket involving medical visas to Libyan patients.

PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami said that the police investigation was clearly intended to kill off the story and to discredit Khaled Ben Nasan, a Libyan businessman turned whistleblower who had allegedly served as middleman between Neville Gafa and Libyan patients. 

Fenech Adami accused the police of adopting “fascist” tactics in asking the Attorney General for legal advice on how to arraign Ben Nasan in court. “Instead of taking action against Gafa, the mastermind of this scandal who is close to the Prime Minister, the police now want to take action against the whistleblower. This is an unacceptable travesty of justice.”

Fenech Adami urged the police to re-open its investigation into Gafa on the strength of recently leaked Viber text messages between himself and Ben Nasan, and the Attorney General to grant the Libyan businessman immunity from prosecution.

Ben Nasan last year set up a company called Aurum Tribus, which offers Libyans assistance in receiving treatment overseas. In a letter to then health minister Konrad Mizzi last April, he alleged that Neville Gafa had pocketed around €38,000 from medical visa applications. He allegedly used the money to buy himself a new BMW.

The leaked letter claims that Gafa had started a new medical visa application process through which Libyans would send over photocopies of their passports in advance, for which Gafa would charge varying prices.

The system was eventually changed, and Gafa started asking patients for their actual passports and other documentation.

For over a year, Gafa allegedly charged Libyans a €2,500 monthly fee to secure medical visas, treatment and accommodation in Malta, as well as an additional €100 charge.

However, Ben Nasan told Mizzi in April and his successor Chris Fearne a month later that Gafa had not refunded €38,000 in payments for 42 medical visas that never materialized.

Transcripts from Viber conversations between the two were leaked to the Malta Independent on Wednesday, showing that Ben Nasan had been demanding the return of the €38,000 since January.

“Please, please, please. All I need is the people’s money back,” he told Gafa, to which the health ministry employee replied: “Go home, I will try meet you tomorrow”.

Fenech Adami said that these transcripts constitute enough evidence for the police to re-open their investigations into Gafa.

“[Ben Nasan] asked Gafa to repay €38,000. If there wasn’t a case, then Gafa would have asked him what he was talking about not tell him to meet him tomorrow,” he said. “These messages show that the police investigation into Gafa was a farce, intended to kill the story so as not to damage the government. The police commissioner [Laurence Cutajar] is a government puppet, who was only given his role because he is close to the Labour party.”

‘Gafa shamelessly profited off the back of vulnerable patients’

On her part, shadow health minister Claudette Buttigieg delved into the moral aspect of the case, arguing that Gafa sought to make a quick buck off vulnerable patients.

“Libya has been in a civil war since 2011, and vulnerable people require medical service and are choosing to come to Malta. Yet Gafa seized the moment to make money for himself, which is scandalous and shameful.

Buttigieg also called on health minister to respond to claims that ambulance nurses had been sent a memo to contact Neville Gafa 24/7 in all cases of Libyan patients being transferred to Mater Dei.

“Fearne has a lot of responsibility to shoulder, as this took place under his watch as parliamentary secretary for health,” she said. “Is it possible that he was unaware of it all? Those people who don’t condemn corruption are themselves corrupt…”

She also questioned whether the identity of the Libyan patients had been verified, and whether any of them were only pretending to be ill so as to use Malta as a stepping stone to Europe.  

‘Fenech Adami acting as judge and jury’ – PL

The Labour Party responded on behalf of the government, by accusing Fenech Adami of acting as “judge and jury” in the Neville Gafa case, and of interfering in police investigations.

“Like Simon Busuttil, Fenech Adami enjoys playing the triple role of prosecutor, judge and jury when he thinks it can earn him some sort of advantage,” he said. “When the results of investigations don’t appease him, he simply starts attacking everything and everyone.”

The party urged the PN deputy leader to come clean on what action the PN will take against his brother Michael Fenech Adami over a damning report by the Local Governance Board that accused him of frequently breaching public procurement regulations during his tenure as Birkirkara mayor. 

More in National