Alleged medical visas racket: Neville Gafa sues newspaper, Simon Busuttil for libel

Lawyer says newspaper based its story ‘on unfounded allegations and outright lies and hiding behind alleged anonymous high ranking Libyan secret service officer’

Neville Gafa to launch libel proceedings against 'everyone
Neville Gafa to launch libel proceedings against 'everyone

Health Ministry employee Neville Gafa will be suing The Malta Independent on Sunday, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil and “other politicians” following allegations that he netted up to €150,000 a month in medical visas scam.

The Police this week said that it did not find any evidence pointing towards criminal action by Gafa.

In a letter to the editor of the Malta Independent, and copied to media outlets, Gafa’s lawyer Peter Paul Zammit reiterated that Gafa “never received any monies in any way or manner” aside from his government salary.

The Malta Independent claimed that Gafa “personally made between €2 million and €3 million from the racket since it began operating in 2014”. Gafa suspended himself from duties pending police investigations.

The allegations were raised by Libyan national Khaled Ben Nasan, a businessmen who last year set up an import-export company called Aurum Tribus. In a letter to the Ministry for Health last April, Ben Nasan alleged that Gafa had started a new medical visa application process through which Libyans would send over their passports in advance and Gafa would charge varying prices.

Gafa accused the author of the newspaper article “based his story on unfounded allegations and outright lies and hiding behind alleged anonymous high ranking Libyan secret service officer”.

Gafa argued in his letter that the Maltese government had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Libyan Authorities to help in providing medical assistance to persons injured in this conflict.

“The person who were to be provided this service were to be identified by the Libyan authorities and cleared from their end, and subsequently reviewed by the local Secret Service, Police, Immigration and medical departments and services. The persons concerned were not requested to pay anything, not even the €66 visa fee which was waived by the Maltese government,” Gafa said.

“All other expenses as regard the patient were entered into a government account as debt to be subsequently settled by the Libyan authorities. No fees or charges were levied by myself or the respective departments for the vetting of the persons concerned.”

Gafa said that all due diligence effected “included, and actually commenced from the Libyan secret service which therefore gives lie to the source quoted by the journalist concerned”.

“The article gives the impression that [Gafa] went to collect monies in Libya from injured persons, when if anything it is the alleged middleman, who had no legal or statutory rights to enter into these government to government negotiations, who results from the same article as having collected monies on the unfounded pretext of having Libyan or Maltese clearance.”

The letter goes on to add that Malta has since provide 600 medical services, some of them major and life threatening cases, to those that have been filtered through the system.

Former MEP hopeful Ivan Grech Mintoff, who according to Gafa’s laywer “acted as interlocutor to the anonymous secret service source”, this morning held a press conference to express concern over the alleged racket and how it impact Malta’s reputation.

Grech Mintoff, who claimed to be aware of mobile chats and voice recordings, has not approached the Police. At the same time, he claimed that what is known so far is “just the tip of the iceberg”.

The Nationalist Party yesterday lashed out at the police for what it claimed was “a farcical” investigation.  PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami said that the police investigation was clearly intended to kill off the story and to discredit the Libyan businessman.