A Health Ministry official ran a medical visa racket charging Libyans thousands of euros to get into Malta, a whistleblower has claimed.

The official, Neville Gafa, allegedly pocketed the funds, amounting to nearly €38,000, and purchased a BMW, according to a letter sent to then-health minister
Konrad Mizzi back in April.

The government said yesterday that the matter was being investigated. Mr Gafa denies the allegations.

The letter, leaked to The Sunday Times of Malta, details how Mr Gafa was allegedly charging Libyans a €2,500 monthly fee to secure medical visas, treatment
and accommodation, along with an additional €100 charge.

Back in November 2015, this newspaper reported on the extraordinary number of medical visas issued that year and how police had received serious allegations
of abuse.

More than 600 medical visas allowing Libyan citizens to come for treatment in Malta were issued in the first half of 2015, a far cry from the 252 issued in 2011, when
the Libyan conflict was at its peak.

According to the leaked letter, signed by lawyer Leslie Cuschieri on behalf of Libyan Khaled Ben Nasan, Mr Gafa coordinated the operation for around a year and
three months, “until this way of applying for a visa was stopped”.

It was then that things started to turn sour between Mr Gafa and his Libyan business partner, Mr Ben Nasan.Mr Ben Nasan operates a company

Mr Ben Nasan operates a company in Malta called Aurum Tribus Ltd, which offers Libyan nationals assistance in receiving treatment overseas. He was involved in the rescue of former Armed Forces of Malta captain Martin Galea, who was kidnapped by a Libyan militia back in 2014.

The letter, which came to the attention of The Sunday Times of Malta through a third party, explains how Mr Gafa, a political  canvasser for the Labour Party during the 2013 general election, started a new medical visa application process through which Libyans would send over their passports in advance and Mr Gafa would charge varying prices.

Mr Gafa, the letter reads, was handed over 42 Libyan passports to apply for visas and hospital stays, and in turn asked to be paid in advance.

“The amounts collected varied, but the global sum collected amounted to €37,800. It transpired that the amounts paid were not used at all for the purpose they were paid,” the letter reads.

According to Dr Cuschieri’s letter, Mr Gafa was asked to refund the misused funds
to the Libyan nationals but did not do so, because the money was used “for the purchase of a BMW car”.

He allegedly asked for some breathing space to provide the cash, but “in spite of
several promises that it will be paid back, no payment has been effected”.

Asked what action had been taken on the matter, a government spokesman said
Dr Mizzi had referred the case to the Attorney General.

The case was later reported to the police by the Permanent Secretary in the Health
Ministry, the spokesman said.

The spokesman also said that Mr Gafa had denied the allegations and asked to
have the matter investigated.

“He has also asked to be relieved from any such responsibilities. In fact, he
was asked not to do any work related to the matter of the allegations,” the
spokesman said, adding that investigations were ongoing.

Sent exactly a month before Dr Mizzi’s name appeared in the Panama Papers data
dump, the letter starts off by thanking the then-minister for his work in office.

“First and foremost I would like to extend my congratulations, on my own behalf and on my client’s, for your good hard work and efficiency, which will remain appreciated in spite of unfair attacks by political adversaries,” it reads.

Dr Cuschieri then informs Dr Mizzi that Mr Ben Nasan wanted the minister to
intervene in this “delicate issue” to find a solution.