Government asks police to investigate Neville Gafà

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has asked the Police force to investigate allegations of threats which former OPM employee Neville Gafà made towards international investigative journalist Nello Scavo. Contacted by Newsbook.com.mt, Gafà said that until the time of writing he had not been called in for questioning by the police. “Neither was I asked to give an explanation to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on what I wrote,” said Gafà.

Nello Scavo has been following the plight of migrants in the Mediterranean on the Catholic media L’Avvenire together with other international journalists from The Guardian and the New York Times among others, as well as Newsbook.com.mt.

Italian Government held accountable

Newsbook.com.mt can reveal that in a sitting of the Italian parliament on the 17th July 2020, the issue of threats levelled by Neville Gafà was brought up during question time. Alessandra Ermellino spoke of the various threats which journalists face, naming Scavo among them and warning that should these journalists consider travelling to Malta, they should take precautions “even in Malta, and in this case, I would strongly recommend that no one ventures into these countries without sufficient preparation and precaution” (altrettanto da Malta, per quanto sconsiglierei comunque a chi si avventura in questi Paesi di andarci senza un grado sufficiente di preparazione e di precauzione). She asked if the Italian government was going to ask its Maltese counterpart to take steps in this matter.

Answering for the government side, Gianluca Castaldi referred to the threats levelled to Nello Scavo ‘from a person close to government’ (“Nello Scavo, minacciato da un personaggio ritenuto contiguo alle autorità di Governo maltese”) Castaldi confirmed that Scavo had been placed under police protection. He added that under the Abela administration, Gafà has not been given any particular posting. Castaldi said that “While there have been no official communications with the Maltese government, the ministry for foreign affairs of Malta spoke informally to the Italian embassy in Valletta and condemned the alleged threats. It also assured the embassy that a magisterial inquiry would be opened on the case.” (Pur non risultando comunicati ufficiali da parte del Governo maltese, il Ministero degli Esteri maltese in contatti informali con la nostra ambasciata a La Valletta, ha stigmatizzato l’episodio delle dichiarazioni citate dagli onorevoli interpellanti, assicurando che sarebbe stata avviata l’apertura di un’indagine a cura della magistratura locale). Castaldi concluded that if there will be no results from this inquiry in the coming weeks, fresh pressure on the government will be made via diplomatic channels.

When the threats were made

A veritable storm was kicked up on the social media as former OPM functionary Neville Gafà appeared to raise threats against veteran international journalist Nello Scavo. The exchange occurred late June 2020. The Italian journalist has been following ground-breaking stories on tacit pushbacks into Libyan concentration camps on aspiring migrants from all over the African continent. In his researches, Scavo has uncovered a system which punishes humanity for the sake of legality.

In reply to a tweet by Scavo, Neville Gafà replied: “Stop your dirty business, if not we will be stopping you”. This tweet by Gafà was aimed at Scavo, the rescue platform Alarm Phone and Rescue Med. The tone is ominous and very reminiscent of novels. When Scavo asked who ‘we’ included, no reply was given. This tweet by Gafa is also odd when one considers that a few days earlier, he told off the Minister for Foreign Affairs for praising the Libyan Government, intimating that the Libyan prisons left much to be desired.

Gafà admitted to pushbacks

Gafà has a chequered history of posts with the Muscat administration ranging from customer care in the Ministry for health to involvement in the issue of medical visas according to a whistle-blower. Former OPM operative Neville Gafa’ admitted under oath that he had co-ordinated the push back of the 51 migrants involved in the Pasquetta Tragedy on instructions of the Office of the Prime Minister. In his answer to Newsbook, he did not identify the identity of the person who gave him these instructions. The sworn statement was given to Magistrate Joe Mifsud who is hearing the criminal case instituted by the civil rights NGO Repubblika.

Gafa, answering Newsbook.com.mt’s questions, said that he been co-ordinating push backs for the past three years. He later added that he did not co-ordinate push backs but made sure the boats did not enter Malta’s S&R. 

Gafà’s ‘cold feet’

In the wake of the considerable reaction this oblique threat, Newsbook.com.mt contacted Neville Gafà for his side of the story. His reply had been described by Scavo as a retraction, adding “I am not surprised at the tone used by Gafà. With all the evidence which our work has dug up, we have stirred the waters especially with the recent investigations on the illegal export of oil from Libya”.

Full reply by Gafà

In relation to this story, Newsbook.com.mt asked Neville Gafà for his side of the story. What follows is a translation of the original which was in Maltese.

Newsbook: We have been informed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs that they have asked the police to initiate investigations into your alleged threats to journalist Nello Scavo. Have you been approached by the police on the matter?

Neville Gafà: With reference to your question, I would like to inform you that until today, I have not been called up for questioning by the police. Neither was I asked to give an explanation to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on what I wrote

I hope that as the Ministry for Foreign Affairs asked the police to investigate my comments, it will also ask the police to investigate the dozens of threatening messages which I received which targeted me and my family, all Maltese citizens. These threats were made by persons close to foreign NGOs, made public on social media.

I will take this opportunity to reiterate what I told Newsbook in my original comments on the 28th June 2020: What I write on the social media, I write in my own name and only in my own name. What I wrote was in reply to Alarm Phone and not directed at some Italian journalist as it may have seemed.

It is unacceptable that an organisation such as this, which co-ordinates illegal immigration with human traffickers, denounces and insults European governments on a regular basis, particularly the Italian and the Maltese governments.

The same Italian journalist wrote a series of articles about me, but I have never answered him. I remain in favour of the missions which are being carried out on a regular basis by Frontex, the AFM and the Libyan Coastguard.

I do this so that our country will not be overrun by an influx of irregular migrants.

Malta First and Foremost.

Original reply in Maltese