They stole money and visas from injured children

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The racket involving medical visas for injured Libyans saw a Maltese government official netting up to €150,000 a month, according to high-ranking Libyan sources that came forward this week to speak with this newspaper in the wake of recent media reports. This newspaper is informed that the official, Neville Gafà – who worked at the Office of the Prime Minister and later at the Health Ministry – personally made between €2 million and €3 million from the racket since it began operating in 2014. Worse still, the racket was such that it was not even injured Libyans who were always the recipients of the visas. So much so that those who received the visas to come to Malta under the guise of an agreement between Malta and Libya to treat Libyans injured in hostilities were people who had not been properly vetted and count among their ranks criminals who have been granted access to Europe through Malta’s Schengen Zone membership. Expressing no small amount of angst over the state of affairs, high ranking Libyan sources speaking with this newspaper also claim that many of the visas intended for Libyans genuinely injured in hostilities instead went to criminals and others who were willing to fork out thousands of euros for visas to Malta. Senior Libyan security source told this newspaper on condition of anonymity considering the sensitivity of the situation n the country, “They [the perpetrators of the racket] stole money from injured children who never got their visas to be treated in Malta. Some of those children, and adults, have died in the meantime because they did not get the treatment. “In contrast, the Italians come for the injured themselves and take them to Italy for treatment with no money asked for. Malta asks us for money and then we ever get the visas… and in this latest case they did not even get their money back, let alone the visas to come to Malta for lifesaving treatment.” The source’s reference to ‘this latest case’ refers to the €38,000 in ‘fees’ for some 40 visas that government official Neville Gafà allegedly made off with when the plug was finally pulled on the racket. And although recent media reports have implicated Gafà as the scam’s main fixer, this was allegedly merely the very tip of the iceberg. Gafà was employed at the Office of the Prime Minister and was later transferred to the Health Ministry. Gafà’s Facebook profile, which is replete with rabid anti-Nationalist Party posts, lists both former positions. After that, and presumably when news of his machinations came to light, he was reportedly transferred to the Foundation for Medical Services. Libyan security sources speaking with this newspaper, through interlocutor Ivan Grech Mintoff, who also leads the Alleanza Bidla political party, this week were incensed and claim that many, including children, actually died waiting for their visas, while others never got their visas at all – visas that instead went to those willing to fork out thousands of euros for them. Libyan security services sources speaking with this newspaper have made several other accusations, which this newspaper will continue to follow up. It was recently reported how Mr Gafà had pocketed €38,000 in visa ‘fees’ from Libyan nationals and refused to return the money after having purchased a new BMW with the funds. The Libyans were allegedly being charged €2,500 per visa and an additional €100 per patient. The funds, according to sources well acquainted with the racket speaking with this newspaper, were tucked into passports awaiting their visa stamps and when efforts by a Syrian middleman, Khaled Ben Nasan, to recoup the funds and passports were made, the passports were eventually returned – minus the cash. The incident led Mr Ben Nasan to have his lawyer write to then health minister Konrad Mizzi in a still unsuccessful attempt to recover
the funds. But sources speaking to this newspaper from Libya are outraged not only over the missing funds, but over the fact that the medical visas were not going to those truly in need but, rather, to those who were willing and able to pay for them. 

First Published in the Malta Independent 21/08/16