The Italian Guardia di Finanza financial police have reported that they have broken up a smuggling ring selling low quality Libyan diesel fuel. The Italian police force’s year long investigation found that the smuggled fuel was actually destined for ships from a refinery operated by Libya’s National Oil Corporation in Zawiyah.
The fuel, which is estimated at being worth $35 million, had reached service stations on the black market in Sicily, France, and Spain. The fuel had been mixed and redistributed at the stations; selling at 40% below official market rates.
Arrest warrants for eight men and a woman were issued out by a court in Catania. The warrants included one for the CEO of an Italian company implicated in fraud, an Italian go-between suspected of having mafia links, and former Maltese football player Darren Debono- as reported by News24 and Times of Malta.
This case brings to light Libya’s struggle with maintaining control over fuel smuggling. It is reported that armed militia, tribal clans, police personnel, and the local coast guards all partake in this business. According to a Middle East Eye report, the Hneesh militia and Dabbashi clan, “two of the most powerful groups in western Libya”- exercise control over fuel smuggling and human trafficking. Continued political instability raises questions regarding authority and legality in the oil sector.