The Malta Independent 21 April 2019, Sunday

Neville Gafa tried paying off Libyan nationals not to testify against him, court told

Monday, 21 January 2019, 17:33 Last update: about 4 months ago

A court has heard how Libyan nationals were willing to testify against OPM official Neville Gafa over a medical visa racket but were being pressured not to do so.

The claim was made by Ivan Grech Mintoff during libel proceedings instituted by Gafa against David Lindsay as editor of The Malta Independent on Sunday.

Grech Mintoff testified that he knew of many Libyans who were being pressured by Gafa not to testify.

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The witness said that Gafa had even tried paying them off to avoid them having to testify against him.

Gafa was a former public officer at the Foundation for Medical Services (FMS) before he was sacked on order of Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne after it emerged that Gafa posed as the prime minister's special envoy and met with Libyan warlord, Haithem Tajouri.

The Libyan nationals who are eager to testify in the case had allegedly paid Gafa for medical visas which should have been issued for free.

“After the last sitting, just four days later, Gafa was back in Libya offering these people money for them not to testify,” Grech Mintoff explained to the court, before stepping off the witness stand. “There’s great pressure on them at present.”

Earlier on in his testimony, Grech Mintoff explained how the Libyans, named under the ‘list of persons willing to testify’ presented in the records of the case, had contacted him about the alleged illicit sale of Schengen visas at the Maltese Consulate in Tripoli as well as
the issuance of Humanitarian Medical Visas by Gafa. 

Grech Mintoff said that the Libyans willing to do so, 13 in all, did not trust the Maltese police and wanted to testify directly. "To make it clear, those persons contacted me. It was not the other way round," he said, adding that he had spoken to the Libyan nationals over the phone and recorded the conversation with their permission.

The Libyans had released their own formal statements through their legal system via affidavits, providing their mobile numbers and IDs. An English translation of the statements was also available, Grech Mintoff claimed. 

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale said Grech Mintoff was the voice of these people out there. "The court would like to hear that voice," he said, ordering Grech Mintoff to present the translations of the full accounts provided by the Libyan nationals in their native tongue and to have them certified as true.

The witness said that the Libyans would be willing to testify via a Skype call. 

Depasquale, acting on this new information, acceded to this request but insisted that unless the call takes place during the next sitting, the court would have to move on.

Faced with this scenario, Grech Mintoff’s cross-examination by Peter Paul Zammit, as counsel to Gafa, was suspended and the case was adjourned for next March.

Before leaving the stand, the witness said that he even had photographs to backup his claim that Gafa was recently in Libya trying to pay off the Libyan nationals in a bid to stop them from testifying. 

Depasquale took formal note of this information and ordered the court adjourned.

The case continues in March.

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