Italy breaks up Libyan fuel smuggling ring


Sicilian police want nine people, including a suspected mobster, arrested for running a Libyan fuel-smuggling ring in which at least 30 million euros (26.55 million pounds) of diesel was sold in gas stations in Italy and Europe.

A Libyan, nicknamed the “boss”, used small boats to steal fuel from a refinery in Zawiya, a port city west of Tripoli, a statement from the finance police said.

The fuel, stolen from Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), was then transferred to a larger ship off Malta and brought to Italy.

Police from the Sicilian city Catania “documented in detail 30 voyages in which more than 80 million kilos of diesel fuel was imported,” the statement said.

For the first time, the Catania court authorised the use of technology capable of listening in on satellite phone calls during the investigation, police said.

Six of the nine were arrested and an international arrest warrant has been issued for the other three, who are abroad.

One of the men arrested, Nicola Romeo, is accused of being a member of the Santapaola clan of the Sicilian mafia, while the Libyan, Fahmi Mousa Saleem Ben Khalifa, is already in custody in Libya on accusations of fuel smuggling.

Another Italian man headed a seemingly legitimate company used to distribute the stolen fuel in gas stations in Italy, France and Spain, police said.

The Italian company offered its diesel to distributors for up to 60% less than market prices.

Though the quality of the diesel, meant for ships’ engines, was of a lower standard than that used by vehicles in Italy, it was sold at the same price.