Transcripts of a number of Libyans claiming they bought visas from an official in the Office of the Prime Minister were submitted in court on Monday.
The transcripts, along with a hefty document detailing how the alleged racket was conducted, were submitted in court by Ivan Grech Mintoff as evidence to back claims of high-level corruption.
The document contains assertions and testimony on the alleged illicit sale of Schengen visas at the Maltese Consulate in Tripoli and in the issuance of Humanitarian Medical Visas by OPM official Neville Gafà.
“If the allegations are correct, then corrupt officials have issued up to 88,000 Schengen Visas and an unknown number of Medical Visas, permitting an inflow in to the European Union of persons that could be potential security threats and/or illegal migrants,” Mr Grech Mintoff’s dossier reads.
The documents also claim that there were indications that medical visas which should have been issued for free, were instead sold.
The scheme, the documents claim, could have netted the persons involved millions of euros.
Mr Grech Mintoff also uploaded a copy of the documents to the Alleanza Bidla website.
The documents claims that five Libyans were willing to testify that Mr Gafà had asked them for money in exchange for Visas.
According to the document, the alleged witness - Serraj Essa, Ali S Gamati, Ayman Alzintani, Osama Mohamed Zaidi and Ali Algool - had not been contacted by the police despite their claims already having been flagged.
In one transcript of a conversation, one witness alleges that Mr Gafà “asked for, and got, € 1,750,000 to issue 22 medical visas.”
Another witness alleges that Mr Gafà asked for € 3,000,000 to be deposited in a bank account and for payments of €3,500 to be made for each medical visa that was issue. This was later ‘discounted’ to €3,000 per medical visa, the documents claim.
Submitted in court
Documents were submitted in court as evidence in libel proceedings between The Malta Independent and Mr Gafà. They are expected to also be presented in a civil case between Libyan whistleblower Ben Nasan Khaled Ibrahim Ben and the Health Ministry.
The whistleblower’s story, and the alleged involvement of government official Neville Gafà, had first been revealed by the Times of Malta back in 2016.
The documents will also submitted as evidence in two other libel cases involving Mr Gafà in the coming days, Mr Grech Mintoff said.
Fear of repercussions
In the transcripts, Libyan nationals claim to have paid for their visas, and the document says they were willing to testify in a Maltese court but feared repercussions by the Maltese authorities if they did.
“As the formal issuers of the visas, the Maltese authorities could easily revoke their visa and would be right – legally – to do so, based on these witnesses’ own admission of their method of obtaining the visas,” the document reads.
Given this situation, the document adds, these witnesses were unwilling to give their testimony without some form of “guarantee”.
In his document, Mr Grech Mintoff suggests Brussels could intervene to protect witnesses willing to blow the whistle on the alleged racket.
“Given the importance of the functioning of the visa system and the witnesses lack of trust in the Maltese government it might be wise and prudent for the European Commission to provide for some form of guaranteed anonymity – or, some form of amnesty or pardon – that ensures that the witnesses can testify without the fear of deportation or losing their present rights,” the document reads.
The document also raises concerns about the police investigation into the allegations.
Mr Grech Mintoff also claims to have been approached by persons claiming to have been sent by members of the Office of the Prime Minister.
“The first time these persons offered me ‘any job’ that I wanted in exchange for not pursuing this matter further. The second time I was told to ‘name your price in order to shut up’, and the third time I was told that the messenger represented five high-ranking police officers who wanted me to stop investigating and exposing Khalid Ben Nasan’s allegations and told that Khalid Ben Nasan “will go down” and that they did not want me to go down with him,” the report reads.
Allegations of wrongdoing in the issuance of Visas have been in the headlines for a few years now. Back in 2014, the Times of Malta had reported how files at the Maltese consular office in Tripoli had been seized as part of a police investigation into alleged travel visa fraud.
In a reaction to Times of Malta Mr Gafa' said he was denying all of Mr Grech Mintoff's allegations and reserved the right to take legal action.