So much bigger than Neville Gafà – Kevin Cassar

“Government official earned up to €150,000 a month in medical visa scam,” headlines The Malta Independent newspaper of August 21, 2016. Neville Gafà was that official.

The newspaper had reliable information from senior Libyan officials that Gafà had personally earned up to €3 million since the visa scam began in 2014. The newspaper published receipts for €35,000 paid to Gafà between August and October 2015 only. The receipts included lists of names, identification numbers and payments.

In a letter to then health minister Konrad Mizzi, Khalid Ben Nasan claimed that Gafà charged Libyans €2,500 per visa. Nasan was in possession of Viber messages exchanged with Gafà in which he tried to recover thousands of euros paid by Libyans without obtaining a visa.

“You took the money, I understand the problem,” Nasan told Gafà. “Try to return the money or offer a solution – when I delayed your payment for a day, you called 100 times,” Nasan pleaded in Gafà, “we met at Joseph Muscat’s office to put end of the problem”.

Instead of delivering the letter to the police, Mizzi simply asked the attorney general for “advice.”

Gafà’s legal representative, former police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit, said Gafà “never received any money in any way other than his salary from the government”.

The Muscat office launched a vicious assault on the reporter and the paper. “The story is a blatant lie that maliciously attempts to mislead its readers”, “it is simply a vicious pirouette (sic)”, “it is nothing less than another blatant lie by the journalist “. The hostile aggression of the OPM statement was indicative of the truth of the claims.

The OPM said that, pending investigations, Gafà “has been asked not to do any work related to the issue of the allegations”. But Gafà continued to work on visas. An August 2016 memo to paramedics read, “Mr. Neville Gafà should be contacted 24/7 on a cell phone number…in ALL cases of Libyan patients transferred to MDH or when ambulances are called upon to assist these patients at the airport”.

Gafà remained a member of the national executive of the Labor Party during the police investigations into the scam.

Just two days after the revelations, police announced that investigations were complete. “Mr. Gafà has not been involved in any criminal behavior,” they said.

The next day, police announced they were considering arresting Nasan, the man who exposed the scam. This was not simply an attempt by state police to discredit the whistleblower. This was active retaliation for daring to reveal the multi-million euro scam.

In July 2017, Nasan was charged with fraud and extortion. The police were determined to punish the man, sending a clear message to others. However, Nasan’s pursuit backfired catastrophically.

The court heard that in their bogus investigations of Gafà, the police only searched an office that Gafà had left months before. They didn’t bother to search the desk he was actually using. They also did not search his home or his computers.

Why was Joseph Muscat desperately protecting Neville Gafà?– Kevin Cassar

The police ignored the images containing incriminating evidence that were provided. The phone numbers and personal details of those linked to the images were passed to Deputy Police Commissioner Ian Abdilla, but he took no action. Libyans wishing to travel to Malta to testify have not received visas to do so.

On November 15, 2018, Ivan Grech Mintoff submitted recorded testimony from 13 witnesses implicating Gafà in the scandal. Then magistrate Franco Depasquale ordered the witnesses to give evidence in person or via Skype.

Two days later, Gafà traveled to Libya accompanied by Muscat’s security officer, Kenneth Camilleri, on a diplomatic visa. On November 19 at 5:30 p.m., Gafà met with representatives of the witnesses and reportedly offered them €300,000 for their silence. Camilleri denied knowing why Gafà was in Libya, but recordings indicated that he had played an active role in these meetings.

Despite mounting incriminating evidence, Muscat continued to protect Gafà. The OPM denied that Gafà represented Muscat during his trip to Libya. Yet Libyan media have identified him as Prime Minister Muscat’s special envoy.

For months, Muscat claimed he did not know where Gafà worked. He defended Gafà, saying “he did a good job” and “he wasn’t fired, just transferred”.

While Muscat pretended to ignore Gafà’s role, he secretly appointed Gafà’s coordinator to a position of trust in his own

Office. That was in January 2019. It took another seven months before Gafà’s message was revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question. But not before, Minister Carmelo Abela and Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar consistently refused to answer journalists’ questions, forcing journalists to file freedom of information requests.

The OPM, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health all denied that Gafà was employed by them.

Why was Muscat desperately protecting Gafà? Why did the police mount mock investigations into the serious allegations? Why was the whistleblower so ruthlessly persecuted? Why did the OPM attack the reporter revealing the story? Why did Robert Abela ask Gafà for help?

A Slovak MEP, Branislav Skripek, has revealed that Malta sold 88,000 Schengen visas to Libyans between 2013 and 2014, jeopardizing the security of the entire EU. At €2,500 each, that’s €220 million. Gafà could not have run the scam alone. It wasn’t really Gafà that the police were protecting.

On May 2, 2022, the court ruled that these 2016 newspaper revelations about Gafà “constitute verifiable facts” and that the allegations were “substantially true”, not “blatant lies” as Muscat maintained.

The court also recommended that the police investigate Gafà regarding his alleged attempts to silence witnesses.

It was weeks ago. Did the OPM apologize to the journalist for publicly harassing him, calling him a liar? Has the police commissioner reopened the first investigations into Gafà? Has Abdilla been indicted for his inaction? Has a masterful investigation been launched into how evidence of a multi-million euro visa scam was ignored, how its leader was protected by the Prime Minister and his police force and how the whistleblower was persecuted by the state?

It is the continuity of the culture of impunity.

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