The Malta Independent 15 April 2024, Monday
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Police still investigating ‘€35,000 in payments’ allegedly made to Gafa in medical visas scam

Helena Grech Monday, 16 January 2017, 15:30 Last update: about 8 years ago

Neville Gafa, the former Health Ministry worker placed at the heart of an alleged Libyan medical visa racket, vociferously refuted the assertion that he personally pocketed from the issuing of such visas.

He also expressed how “hurt” he felt upon reading allegations that sick Libyan children were denied visas in place of others willing to fork out thousands to buy them.

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Mr Gafa’s comments were made this morning while he was testifying in the civil case instituted by him against The Malta Independent on Sunday editor David Linsday. In addition to this, Mr Gafa also filed a complaint with the police, resulting in separate criminal proceedings being instituted against Mr Lindsay.

In his testimony, Mr Gafa gave a rundown of the events that transpired since the first media reports emerged regarding the allegations against him.

“After claims were made that I was pocketing €150,000 per week, I felt defamed and more than that I felt shocked. Apart from writing such allegations, no evidence was provided. I always carried out my work properly and the only money I received came in the form of my government salary.”

He explained that he was employed under the Health ministry to coordinate the Libyan medical visa scheme that sought to bring over Libyan people injured through the political instability in the region, and treat them safely in Malta.

Mr Gafa said that after two separate departments review the health visa applications, and a due diligence process is carried out, the application including a €66 administration fee is sent to the Central Visa Unit and then that individual is brought over to Malta.

The project was headed by Mr Gafa from August 2014. By May 2016, he said that he was made aware of the allegations surfacing against him and was then transferred to a post in Gozo.

“The articles made me out look like a criminal. I was completely shocked,” he testifed before Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, who is presiding over the case.

He took umbrage to a right of reply he sent when the first TMI report emerged because he claimed that it was purposely buried in the inside pages of the newspaper.

The article cites high-ranking Libyan sources that came forward to speak with this newsroom in the wake of a Times of Malta report that broke the story. He said that the investigations are coming to an end.

When asked about receipts that appear to show payments of close to €35,000 made to Mr Gafa between the end of August 2015 and the beginning of October 2015 Mr Gafa said that he has never seen the receipts before, and has no idea about the names written on the receipts as they are written in Arabic and he does not read the language. He claimed to have seen the receipts for the first time when reading the story on The Malta Independent on Sunday.

He also claimed that before filing libel proceedings, and after the TMI reports emerged, he was practically harassed by Ben Nasan after the latter repeatedly called him. “He tired me out,” Mr Gafa said about Mr Nasan, and conceded that he eventually took his call. He also said that Mr Nasan approached him while he was having coffee in Valletta, but claimed that he sent him away and that they did not actually speak.

Inspector Rennie Stivala also took the witness stand, but was unable to divulge much detail because investigations about the alleged scam and more specifically the receipts published by this newsroom are still ongoing. He was also unable to say whether the names on the receipts were eventually given a medical visa.

The case was deferred to 13 March.

 

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