[WATCH] Vella says Malta security services alerted to Libyan allegations

Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni meets Malta's ambassador to complain about fuel smuggling allegations from Libya to Malta.

Libyan prime minister Abdullah Al-Thinni
Libyan prime minister Abdullah Al-Thinni
Foreign minister George Vella on Libyan fuel smuggling allegations • Video Ray Attard

Large amounts of fuel are being smuggled from Libya to Malta, Reuters has reported, citing a statement by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni.

Libya's cabinet said the smuggling was increasing even as angry motorists queue in Tripoli and the state oil firm struggles to deliver due to a lack of security at petrol stations

"This phenomena is a threat to Libya and affects national security," the government said in a statement after Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni met Malta's ambassador.

Al-Thanay said that "recent indications show the problem of fuel smuggling has worsened", adding it had become an "issue of national security" and was "affecting relations between the two neighbourly countries".

He said "gangs" had taken advantage of the deteriorating security situation in Libya to smuggle more fuel out of the country, and import alcohol and drugs.

The Libya Monitor said that Galea was said to have assured al-Thanay the Maltese government would help combat the problem.

Al-Thinni said the Libyan government was working on removing fuel subsidies to ensure they were in line with global prices, a move that would discourage smuggling.

In a reaction to the allegations, the foreign ministry said it had already been informed about Libya’s concerns by its ambassador in Tripoli.

“The allegations have been forwarded to the Malta Security Service,” foreign minister George Vella said.

Vella said that he had guaranteed Libyan chargé d’affairs Huseen M. M. Benown, that the Maltese government would fight every form of criminality, contraband, and trafficking of illicit substances.

“Malta is always ready to fight this type of criminality and we have asked the Libyan government to inform the Maltese government with anything for us to take immediate action upon, in collaboration with Libyan law enforcement agencies,” Vella said.

“The Maltese government wants to see Libya strengthen in its stability and security,” Vella said.

Vella also told Benown that high-level meetings with the Maltese security and law enforcement agencies had already taken place to verify the allegations of fuel smuggling. “Later tonight, I will be making contact with my Libyan counterpart, to discuss the latest developments,” Vella said.

Libya has suffered from smuggling of fuel into neighbours but this has mostly been via land borders.

The increase comes at a time when oil output has fallen to less than 300,000 barrels a day due to wave of protests at oilfields and ports over financial and political demands, down from 1.4 million bpd when the strike action started.

It has previously proposed using smart cards, which would be issued to lower-income families to allow them to buy fuel at below market prices, but plans to implement subsidies reform are socially sensitive and have been delayed numerous times.