The Address | Benghazi – Libya
VALLETTA – Former official at Malta’s Health Ministry, Neville Gafà, admitted he “bumped into” one of Tripoli’s most notorious militia leaders, Haitham al-Tajouri, during his controversial Libya visit last month but played it down as “nothing serious”, Times of Malta reported.
Gafà traveled to Tripoli on a ‘personal trip’ last month where he met with a number of officials of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), including Fathi Bashagha and Ahmed Miitig. His visit caused controversy as GNA’s officals described him as “special envoy of the Prime Minister of Malta” which the Maltese government denied.
Gafà was spotted speaking with Haithem al-Tajouri, the leader of the so-called Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade militia during that visit, sources told Times of Malta.
Speaking to Times of Malta, Gafà first denied any knowledge of the encounter but eventually said he had “bumped into” al-Tajouri on the street, insisting this did not constitute a formal meeting.
“Yes, we may have met – if you want to call it that – but informally, on the street, like I can bump into anyone on the street,” he said.
The sources who spoke to Times of Malta were unable to say what the two men spoke about but pointed out that since the encounter could raise concerns of national security, it had been flagged last month to the relevant authorities. They described the encounter as a “sit-down meeting”.
In a statement on Wednesday, the leader of Malta’s Democratic Party, Godfrey Farrugia, described al-Tajouri as a warlord and the boss of a nascent Libyan mafia, a man identified by the United Nations as being behind several cases of human rights violations.
His actions and those of his associates were holding Libya back from achieving freedom and democracy, he said and his meeting with Gafà raised some serious questions, Farrugia said.
“How did a member of the Castille cabal know a high-profile warlord? Why do they know each other? On whose side is the Castille cabal in the Libyan conflict: on that of international efforts to establish the rule of law in Libya or in bed with criminals whose only interest is profiting from a broken system?”
Farrugia said the Maltese government ignored the Democratic Party’s proposal to establish a UN-led commission to fight organised crime on the high seas between Libya, Malta and Italy.
“Is it because it wants to protect the interests of friends and acquaintances like Haithem Tajouri?”
Secretary General of the Democratic Party, Martin Cauchi Inglott, said Libyan militia leaders were highly guarded and protected to precisely prevent people from “bumping” into them.
“This is a very strange statement by Gafà that begs more questions than answers,” he said.