Diesel smuggler awaits outcome of appeal in Libyan court

One of two Maltese men arrested by Libyan authorities on smuggling has been released, the other awaiting appeal

Tripoli port
Tripoli port

The two Maltese men who were last year arrested by Libyan authorities on charges of trying to smuggle large volumes of diesel into Malta, have met contrasting fates.

The two men, Matthew Piscopo of Marsaxlokk and Kevin McManus of Marsacala, were arrested by Libyan authorities in two separate instances on boats sailing from Libya towards Malta, allegedly shipping thousands of litres of fuel illegally.

Following reports of the two Maltese nationals' arraignment, MaltaToday has learnt that while one of the two men was released, the other was found guilty by the Libyan courts and is awaiting the outcome of his appeal.

Contacted by MaltaToday, the Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed that one of the two detainees was released and left Libya on 24 September 2013, however citing data protection laws, the ministry refused to pinpoint which of the two men has been released.

However, MaltaToday is informed that Matthew Piscopo, who was arrested on 25 March aboard Egyptian vessel Fahd Al-Islam, returned to Malta in September, suggesting that McManus is the Maltese seaman still in custody.

"The other Maltese national is still in custody in Libya. Court proceedings in the latter case have taken place and the Maltese national was found guilty by the Libyan Courts. An appeal to the Tripoli Supreme Court has been filed," a ministry spokesperson said.

Moreover, the ministry explained that the Consulate of Malta in Tripoli is in contact with the detainee who is in "good physical health but understandably misses contacts with his family in Malta".

McManus was aboard the Levante, a Panamanian-registered cargo vessel which was stopped off the Libyan coast by a Libyan Navy vessel on suspicion of smuggling fuel from Libya to Malta on 8 April 2013. 

According to reports which appeared on the Libya Herald, a Libyan Navy spokesperson, Captain Ayyub Umru Kassim, the ship which was heading towards Malta was carrying 400 tonnes of contraband diesel fuel.

The Levante's crew included McManus and seven Egyptians who reportedly admitted to charges of smuggling fuel and of their involvement in various other trips in which fuel was smuggled to Malta. Documents found aboard indicated that the Levante was involved in four previous fuel-running trips.

A few days earlier, the Fahd Al-Islam, was stopped off Zuara and its 13-man crew, which had Piscopo among its number, were arrested.

Documents found on board the boat indicated that this smuggling attempt was not the first. During this month alone, the boat had apparently made three trips from Libya to Malta, allegedly working for a Maltese company.

At Libyan petrol stations, the pump price for 400 tonnes of diesel would be around €36,000, while in Malta it could cost around €620,000.

Declaration on fuel smuggling report from Kevin McManus

Declaration by Kevin McManus in relation to the report “Diesel smuggler awaits outcome of appeal in Libyan court” (29 January, 2014).

I hereunder signed declare that the content of the above-quoted news article and the heading of same is incorrect and does not represent a true picture of what occurred while I was in Libya.

I declare that any statement purporting to declare that I was found guilty by the Libyan courts and that I have lodged an appeal from the said judgement, is untruthful and incorrect.

Furthermore, I declare that I have never had any kind of connection or commercial relationships whatsoever with Matthew Piscopo who is mentioned in the same article.