A Libyan man told court on Monday that government official Neville Gafà had offered him €200,000 to €300,000 “so as not to testify” in a case concerning payments for medical visas.
“I am Muslim and you are Muslim and I want to solve this case in a friendly way,” the man recalled Mr Gafà telling him along with the six-figure offer.
The witness was one of five men to testify via Skype in libel proceedings Mr Gafà filed concerning the allegations.
All five men testified through a translator and said that Mr Gafà had asked them for €2,500 to cover visas and medical treatment in Malta, which they needed back in 2014 after suffering injuries during the war in their home country.
At the time, the Maltese government had offered free treatment to casualties of war in Libya.
One of the witnesses told the court he had undergone surgery at Saint James Hospital in October 2014 and then told he had to be transferred to the state hospital.
When there, he noticed security officers stationed outside his room and those of other Libyan casualty victims. The officers told the man that they were there obeying “orders of Neville Gafà,” he testified.
The man said Mr Gafà had introduced himself as “the agent of health of Malta” and demanded €2,500 for treatment.
Those who did not have the necessary funds were allegedly asked to contact their families back in Libya, to ask them to send the money, the witness went on.
Another witness who had been brought to Malta to have his leg amputated recalled how Mr Gafà had demanded money through a translator.
“If you stay here, you pay money,” the translator had allegedly said.
“This is bad,” one witness had allegedly told Mr Gafa’ and the translator after being asked for money.
“Yes we accept this bad thing,” came the reply, the witness alleged.
Another man told the court that he had been denied an extension of his time in Malta to continue treatment after he refused to cough up the €2,500.
The men were testifying in a libel case Mr Gafà has filed against The Malta Independent on Sunday editor David Lindsey.
They told the court that Mr Gafà had visited them in Libya to discuss these proceedings, offering them money and treatment “so as not to testify.”
However, the men had turned down the offer.
“We believe in the Maltese courts and believe that right is on our side,” said one of the witnesses.
Meanwhile, all five men requested that recordings of their testimonies, which they had handed over to Ivan Grech Mintoff, be filed today in the records of the libel proceedings.
Magistrate Victor George Axiak upheld the request.
The case continues.
Lawyers Edward Gatt, Mark Vassallo and legal procurator Peter Paul Zammit assisted Mr Gafa’. Lawyer Peter Fenech assisted the respondents.