Chargé d’affaires on alleged medical visas racket: ‘No Libyan citizen requested embassy’s help’

Libyan chargé d’affaires appears to be unfazed by allegation of bribery in the issuance of medical visas: ‘This is a matter to be handled by the Maltese government’

Libyan chargé d’affaires Habib Mohammed Al-Amin
Libyan chargé d’affaires Habib Mohammed Al-Amin

The chargé d’affaires at the Libyan embassy, Habib Mohammed Al-Amin, seems to be unfazed by allegations of bribery surrounding the issuance of medical visas to Libyan citizens.

“This problem is not ours and is to be tackled by the Maltese government,” Al-Amin told MaltaToday. “It is not an issue pointing fingers at the embassy. If any of the Libyan citizens request our help, we will help. But in this case, the matter is being investigated by the police.”

Al-Amin said that the embassy is in regular contact with the Foreign Office “to help with the issuance of visas to Libyan nationals, according to law”.

The alleged medical visas scandal has garnered media attention after a letter sent to the Health Ministry in April, and leaked to the press, alleged that a health ministry official would have pocketed some €150,000 a month to issue medical visas to Libyan nationals.

Khaled Ibrahim Ben Nasan, an import-export trader who holds a Libyan passport, told the Malta Independent that Gafà “personally made between €2 million and €3 million from the racket since it began operating in 2014”.

Ben Nasan claimed that Gafà had started a new medical visa application process through which Libyans would send over their passports in advance, and Gafà would charge varying prices for the courtesy.

Asked whether he had heard of such allegations before the reports emerged in the media, Al Amin said he heard of rumours “but when we asked for evidence, none transpired”.

Al Amin said it was not surprising that people would try to make money off Libyan citizens: “With terrorism and the ongoing conflict in Libya and terrorism, many countries are apprehensive of Libyan passports and maybe some people want to try and make some money, taking advantage of this situation.”

Al Amin however reiterated that the Libyan embassy had not been approached by Libyan nationals requesting assistance. “No citizen has asked us to help and we trust that the Maltese government will resolve this issue.”

Asked whether he had heard of the allegations raised by Ben Nasan, the chargé d’affairs insisted that he did not know him.

Sunday newspaper Illum has reported that Ben Nasan, a Syrian with a Libyan passport, has had his residence application refused twice by the Malta Security Service and immigration police. In 2015, Ben Nasan was refused the single permit and, eventually in January 2016, he was also refused a residency permit. According to Illum, the permits were refused due to “untrustworthy information” listed in the application. He also failed multiple security checks.

Hussein Musrati, the representative of the Tripoli administration, has told l-Orizzont that he had his own “doubts” on business cards which Ben Nasan was distributing.

“If he were truly a representative of a legal entity, his cards would hold the name of the ministry and a photo of the cardholder,” Musrati told l-Orizzont.

This morning, the Malta Independent published a story reporting that Ben Nasan had filed a report with the police claiming “to have had his children threatened if he spills more beans in a televised interview”. The threatening calls were allegedly made on Tuesday night at around 9.10pm.

The televised interviewed was meant to be aired on the same day, at 3.30pm. However, a press release issued by Alleanza Bidla – the political party whose leader Ivan Grech Mintoff has been acting as interlocutor between Ben Nasan and the Malta Independent – said that F-Living TV channel had decided to cancel the programme.

“Although we are in no way at fault, we categorically state that we wished it to be aired in full. We promise that the same programme will be made public through other media in the very near future,” Alleanza Bidla said.

In reaction to the alleged threats made, the Nationalist Party accused the Labour government of being a fascist.

“Whilst boasting of introducing the Whistleblower’s Act, the government is allowing a person to face such threats. The PN insists that [Ben Nasan] is provided with the necessary police protection. Both the Attorney General and the Police should take immediate steps.”

Replying, the Labour Party accused PN leader Simon Busuttil of being the “only” person who wanted to conceal the truth – referring to the works-for-votes case in Gozo involving the husband of former minister Giovanna Debono.

“[Busuttil] is not credible after he tried to silence the whistleblower [Joe Cauchi]. On the other hand, this is a government that acts and provides the institutions with the necessary tools, something which the previous administration failed to do.”