A Magistrates’ Court is to decide whether the host of TV show Exodus, Ivan Grech Mintoff, is to be admitted as a defence witness in ongoing criminal proceedings against the whistleblower behind the alleged medical visas racket.
Syrian-born Khaled Ben Nasan is facing fraud and extortion charges following his allegations that Neville Gafa', former Projects Director within the Health Ministry, had pocketed some €38,000 for the granting of medical visas to Libyan nationals.
Mr Grech Mintoff, nephew of former Prime Minister Mintoff and an MEP candidate, was summoned to testify in defence.
He was asked to explain his capacity as witness, thus stating that as the host of a political TV show, he sought to bring together different personalities across the political divide to discuss a variety of topics.
That was how he met Mr Ben Nasan, who had proceeded to supply him with details about the alleged visa racket, Mr Grech Mintoff explained.
However, further questioning was brought to a halt by Magistrate Doreen Clarke, who asked the witness to momentarily leave the courtroom while the parties discussed the fact that Mr Grech Mintoff was apparently to testify in his role as an investigative journalist, which meant that his testimony was ‘detto del detto’, namely hearsay evidence.
“He does not have the same standing as a prosecuting officer,” the court observed.
Defence lawyer Leslie Cuschieri insisted that the witness’s evidence was crucial to the case, even if parts of it were hearsay.
Prosecuting Inspector Rennie Stivala argued that Mr Grech Mintoff had never handed over his material to the police “although he had chosen to go public on TV, further questioning whether the persons mentioned by Grech Mintoff would “come here to give us their evidence.”
“It is useless to make allegations without bringing these people to testify,” the inspector continued.
The court said that since it appeared that Mr Grech Mintoff was to testify in his capacity as an investigative journalist, the accused’s lawyer was to file a note whereby he was to indicate specifically the purpose of this particular testimony in his defence.
The court would then decide upon the admissibility or otherwise of the witness.
The case continues in March.