Medical visas investigation: Libyan’s death threats ‘were sent to himself’

Libyan middleman 'sent mobile phone death threats to himself', investigation reveals

Neville Gafa was at the centre of allegations raised by Khaled Ben Nasan
Neville Gafa was at the centre of allegations raised by Khaled Ben Nasan

A police investigation into text messages that allegedly threatened the safety of the family of a man posing as a whistleblower on corruption in the issuance of medical visas, has revealed it was Khaled Ben Nasan himself who made the threats.

The investigation was launched weeks after an investigation into Ben Nasan’s allegations that a civil servant, Neville Gafa, had withheld thousands of euros for medical emergency visas to Libyan nationals, which never materialised. Gafa denied the allegations.

Ben Nasan then said he had received anonymous death threats.

MaltaToday is informed that in its investigations, which have been finalised, the police discovered that the threats were fabricated by Ben Nasan himself, using one of seven mobile phones he owns.

The investigation was launched in September 2016, when Ben Nasan filed police reports claiming that his children had been the target of threats.

The Malta Independent on Sunday, which at the time carried the report, had said Ben Nasan told the police he had received an SMS, reading:

“Khaled I gave you a warning and this is your last chance if you send any information or present any files or any recordings about me or [name withheld] or [name withheld] or [name withheld] or anyone from the staff of visa unit you will never see your children again.”

In an earlier police report, Ben Nasan also claimed to have received anonymous phone calls. This time, the speaker would have allegedly spoken in Maltese: “[If] you are going to say something and give documents and video, you can forget your children.”

The police investigations concentrated on the mobile telephony data embedded in the text message and call receipts logged in Ben Nasan’s mobile phone, which were then traced to one of seven phones belonging to the Libyan businessman.  

The extensive data from mobile phone operators showed that the SIM card used on one of several mobile devices was in Ben Nasan’s possession.

The police are expected to reiterate earlier results of their investigation that they did not find incriminating evidence of kickbacks or graft against Neville Gafa, a relative of the Prime Minister.

They are expected to present their findings to the Office of the Attorney General in the coming days, which could also include charges against Ben Nasan for falsification.

The police reports by Ben Nasan were filed during the same time that media reports surfaced, alleging that Gafa, a health ministry employee had taken money from Libyan nationals seeking medical visas in Malta. 

Ben Nasan – who in 2015 set up an import-export company called Aurum Tribus – had allegedly served as the middleman between Gafa and Libyan patients seeking a visa to enter Malta.

Ben Nasan then came out as a whistleblower in April 2016 when he alleged that Gafa had pocketed around €38,000 from the medical visa applications. The businessman had claimed 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.

The Malta Independent had claimed that Gafa “personally made between €2 million and €3 million from the racket since it began operating in 2014” – claims denied by Gafa, who sued the newspaper for libel.

During the course of the investigation, Gafa suspended himself from work.

When reports surfaced of the alleged death threats, the Nationalist Party took the government to task over “its failure” to protect Ben Nasan. Opposition leader Simon Busuttil had also said that he would hold Prime Minister Joseph Muscat “personally responsible” if something were to happen to Ben Nasan. 

He had described the situation as “akin to something from a Mafia movie”.

“If anything were to happen to Ben Nasan or his children, I will hold them [the prime minister, police commissioner and Attorney General] personally responsible,” he said.

Transcripts purporting to be Viber conversations between Ben Nasan and Gafa showed the businessman chasing Gafa for €38,000, in alleged fees paid by Libyan nationals for medical visas that never transpired. 

Gafa always maintained his innocence, insisting that allegations were made by “dubious individuals”.

The chargé d’affaires at the Libyan embassy, Habib Mohammed Al-Amin, had told MaltaToday that he had heard of rumours surrounding the allegations, “but when we asked for evidence, none transpired”.

When it was reported in 2016 that the police investigation could not find any incriminating evidence against Gafa, PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami called for a reopening of the investigation; when the police asked the Attorney General whether criminal action could be taken against Ben Nasan, Fenech Adami accused the government of using “near fascist tactics”.

Sunday newspaper Illum had reported that Ben Nasan, a Syrian with a Libyan passport, 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, ostensibly due to “untrustworthy information” listed in the application. He also failed multiple security checks.

Hussein Musrati, the representative of the Tripoli administration in Malta, had told newspaper 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 had told the newspaper.