Ship’s captain arrested in connection with arms trafficking


Italian authorities arrested the captain of a Lebanese-flagged cargo ship seized in the port of Genoa on suspicion of trafficking arms, including tanks and artillery, to Libya the city’s chief prosecutor said.

Deliveries of weapons to Libya are in violation of a UN embargo with UN officials admitting the embargo has been frequently violated.

The vessel, the Bana, was blocked by police in Genoa harbour on February 3.

It was searched after a ship’s officer told Italian authorities weapons were loaded at the Turkish port Mersin then transported to Tripoli, a judicial source said.

The shipment included tanks, howitzers, machineguns and air defence systems, the source said.

The ship was originally scheduled to sail from Turkey to Genoa. According to the informant, who requested political asylum, Turkish military officers escorting the shipment told the crew to declare the Tripoli stop was due to mechanical problems.

The Bana then continued without cargo to Genoa to load car, chief prosecutor Franco Cozzi said.

The ship’s captain, Joussef Tartiussi, a Lebanese national, was arrested on suspicion of trying to influence his crew’s testimony and concealing evidence, Cozzi said.

Tartiussi’s lawyer declined to comment.

The Turkish government backs Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of Libya’s internationally-recognised government, fighting since last April for control of Tripoli against the Libyan National Army led by eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar.

Italian authorities are analysing the ship’s navigation equipment and crew members’ mobile phones to verify the route followed by the Bana, whose transponders were turned off after it left the Turkish port, Cozzi said.

He said even though alleged trafficking had not taken place in Italian waters, it was necessary to investigate because if it happened, arms deliveries are in violation of the UN embargo.