Fuel smuggling from Libya financing militia conflict - UN

United Nations report, prepared for the Security Council’s Libya sanctions committee suggested that an international maritime force police Libyan waters, including to target fuel smuggling to Malta

Officials at Libya’s National Oil Co. have claimed that smugglers are diverting some $12 million of petroleum products are being smuggled out of the country each month on average to Mediterranean countries such as Tunisia and Malta, where a gallon of diesel costs almost $5 – the Wall Street Journal reported – while in Libya it sells for about 40 cents.

A United Nations report, prepared for the Security Council’s Libya sanctions committee and published Feb. 28, suggested that an international maritime force police Libyan waters, including to target fuel smuggling.

“Oil subsidies are driving the conflict to the benefit of the militias,” Jason Pack, head of U.K.-based consultancy Libya Analysis, told the WSJ.

Smugglers selling Libya’s heavily subsidized gasoline and diesel abroad at higher prices probably use some of the profit to finance fighting between the country’s rival governments, according to the U.N. report.

Libyan oil officials say smuggling is being done by both sides.

The oil minister from the government backed by Libya Dawn in Tripoli, Mashallah Zawie, told the WSJ that 2 million litres a day were being smuggled out of Libya by sea.

The trade route from Libya to Malta has drawn particular notice, with the U.N. saying oil tankers and jury-rigged fishing boats are being used to carry diesel. Last summer, 2,000 tons of diesel fuel from Libya was intercepted as it sailed toward Malta, according to the U.N. report.

Reuters quoted NOC spokesperson Mohammed El-Harari back in March as saying that all oil port and export operations were carried out under the authority of the Tripoli-based NOC, which is responsible for shipping crude oil. “The NOC did not register any smuggling of Libyan crude oil, In contrast, the NOC condemns the smuggling of fuel and oil products from the local market to neighbouring countries,” he said.

More in World