The Malta Independent 18 October 2018, Thursday

Medical visas: Libyan whistleblower sues Neville Gafa over €36,675 in unreturned money

David Lindsay Sunday, 7 May 2017, 10:15 Last update: about 2 years ago

The Libyan whistleblower in the medical visas scandal that hit the headlines last summer has instituted court proceedings against former health ministry employee Neville Gafa. 

The court case has been lodged in an attempt to recoup €36,675 that the whistleblower claims Mr Gafa owes him for fees paid for visas and treatment for wounded Libyans who ended up never being treated in Malta.

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In the case filed this week, Libyan whistleblower Khaled Ben Nasan, who described himself as a middleman between the Libyan and Maltese authorities bringing Libyan nationals to Malta for treatment as per a bilateral agreement between the countries, alleges that money he had handed over to Mr Gafa was not always used for such purposes.

As a result, Mr Ben Nasan claims in his court case that a number of would-be patients who paid out the funds were never able to be brought to Malta.

In the court case instituted against Mr Gafa, the health minister (which could include current Health Minister Chris Fearne as well as former health minister Konrad Mizzi as their terms overlapped), the government’s Chief Medical Officer and the Foundation for Medical Services, Mr Ben Nasan has listed nearly 40 people by name as witnesses.

These witnesses include a number of Libyan ministers and politicians, Libyan military personnel and Libyans who allegedly paid for treatment for family members. In addition, the list of witnesses also includes colleagues and former colleagues of Mr Gafa, the foreign affairs minister as well as current and former ministry employees.

From the funds paid to Mr Gafa to bring Libyans to Malta for treatment, Mr Ben Nasan alleges, there was an amount that was not used for the purpose agreed, and that after part of that amount was repaid by Mr Gafa there remained an unpaid balance of €36,675.

Mr Ben Nasan claims that although he repeatedly requested the funds to be repaid, Mr Gafa has failed to accede to the request.

On his part, Mr Gafa, who was recently re-elected to the Labour Party’s national executive, says that Libyan patients were never charged a single cent for the medical visas, not even the standard visas processing fees.

Mr Gafa has denied any wrongdoing or having received any funds apart from his government salary, despite the fact that this newsroom has published transcripts of Viber message conversations between Mr Ben Nasan and Mr Gafa and statements of the payment of ‘fees’ made by Libyan would-be patients.

The conversations show how Mr Ben Nasan had regularly hounded Mr Gafà for the funds to be returned in the first three months of 2016. In the transcripts, Mr Gafà never questions or denies Mr Ben Nasan's claims for reimbursement for the Libyan nationals who did not receive their visas, and instead acknowledges the fact but continually postpones various requested meetings.

On his part Mr Gafa had told this newspaper, “I have never received any monies in any way or manner aside from my due government salary. The persons concerned were not requested to pay anything, not even the €66 visa fee, which was waived by the Maltese government. Only accompanying family members paid the requested visa fee. No fees or charges were levied by myself or the respective departments for the vetting of the persons concerned.”

Mr Gafa has lodged two ongoing civil libel suits and one criminal libel against this newspaper in relation to our reportage of the scandal.

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