Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne has fired Neville Gafà from the Foundation for Medical Services (FMS) following a controversial trip to Libya, the Times of Malta has learnt.
Sources said Mr Gafà’s contract, on a position of trust basis, as a senior manager at the foundation was rescinded on instructions issued by Mr Fearne’s office. Mr Fearne is also Minister for Health.
Foundation head Carmen Ciantar confirmed that the chief of staff at the Health Ministry had directed her to terminate Mr Gafà’s employment as per Mr Fearne’s wishes. She would not give further comment.
However, the sources said Mr Fearne’s decision was linked to repeated allegations of wrong-doing which Mr Gafà has faced in recent years. “The minister did not want him under his responsibility,” one source said.
Mr Gafà was thrust into the spotlight last month when the Times of Malta reported he had travelled to Libya and, according to official communications from Tripoli, met with government ministers in his capacity of “special envoy of the Prime Minister”.
He insisted, when contacted, he had travelled to the Libyan capital on a “personal visit”.
Mr Gafà also played down a subsequent report that he had met with a notorious Libyan militia leader during his trip, insisting he had simply “bumped into him on the street”.
The sources said there were “rumours” that Mr Gafà had been fired for not backing Mr Fearne’s Labour Party leadership aspirations, quickly adding that such talk sounded “false” and could not be given any credibility.
The Times of Malta reported earlier this month that Mr Gafà claimed to work at the Health Ministry despite Mr Fearne saying otherwise.
Mr Gafà said he was “projects director” at the Health Ministry in Valletta, providing Times of Malta with an official business card to back up his story. However, Health Ministry sources said Mr Gafà had not worked at the ministry offices in Merchants Street since he was implicated in an alleged medical visas racket in 2016.
At the time, the Times of Malta referred to a letter in which a whistleblower had given details of the alleged racket and claiming that Mr Gafà used to charge Libyan nationals thousands of euros for a visa to live on the island.
The Times of Malta had been told that, subsequently, he had been moved out of the ministry and sent to the Foundation for Medical Services pending a police investigation that eventually found no proof of wrongdoing.
Mr Gafà’s old office in Merchants Street had since been occupied by other officials, the sources said, adding that, as far as they knew, he had been working from the Office of the Prime Minister at Castille in a capacity unrelated to the Health Ministry.
The Times of Malta reported last year that Mr Gafà had also been given duties at the Office of the Prime Minister’s customer care unit.