By Matthew Vella
A Libyan kingpin fuel and human trafficker with well-known links to Malta has been arrested by a militia force, after years of unceasing criminal activity.
Tripoli’s Rada Special Deterrence Force on Friday announced it had taken under arrest one of the biggest Libyan fuel smugglers and human traffickers: Fahmi Salim Musa Bin Khalifa from Zuwara, whom Rada dubbed the “king of smuggling”, and is reportedly a businessmen with his own transport network, property in Malta and investment in tourism.
The United Nations’ panel of experts on Libya had told the Security Council in a report that fuel smuggled from Libya was being transferred between ships on the high seas and brought to Malta.
Fahmi Ben Khalifa, who owned ADJ Trading with former Malta international footballer Darren Debono and an Egyptian man, was arrested by a militia force
They identified the mastermind as Fahmi Ben Khalifa, who co-owns ADJ Trading with former Malta international footballer Darren Debono and an Egyptian man, Ibrahim Arafa Ahmed.
The company is now in dissolution.
The UN report’s detailed annex on fuel smuggling had linked ADJ Trading to the fuel smuggling business and pointed out that the Maltese authorities were aware of the company’s activities.
In a statement released late on Friday, the Rada militia said that it had arrested Khalifa, “one of the biggest smugglers of hydrocarbons and manipulators of Libyan assets, the famous ‘smuggling king’ of Zuwara.”
“He is considered to be one of the biggest smugglers across the (Mediterranean) Sea, and owns transporters. He is also very active in sending death boats across the (Libyan) shores of Zuwara and Sabratha. The suspect’s activity increased until he became known as the ‘king of smuggling’.”
Rada also said Khalifa owns property in Malta and Turkey, and was building a tourist village in the Libyan coastal city of Zuwara.
“During preliminary investigations, he reported that there are many other figures implicated with him in fuel smuggling in the city (of Zuwara and neighbouring cities of Zawia and Sabratha),” Rada said, which is issuing arrest warrants for collaborators.
The arrest of the smuggling kingpin comes in the wake of renewed European efforts to bolster Libyan coastguard capacity to patrol territorial waters and stop boatloads of refugees and asylum seekers from reaching Europe.
The UN’s panel of experts had said in their report on Khalifa that ships smuggling fuel sail south from Malta to between 40 and 60 nautical miles off the Libyan coast, where they turn off the automated identification system, a tracking system. After they are loaded, they return to Malta. The vessels remain adrift at least 12 nautical miles off the coast, outside Maltese territorial waters, while they discharge the fuel to other vessels that carry it to the coast.
The UN report linked Khalifa to two vessels involved in the smuggling, Basbosa Star and Amazigh F, which changed her name in December last year to Sea Master X. In 10 instances both vessels were detected alongside each other on the limits of Maltese territorial waters during 2015.
Company records show that Khalifa held €330,000 worth of shares in ADJ Trading, with the same amount held by Debono and Arafa. Debono also owns the company Andrea Martina Ltd, which operates the Bonu 5. The UN report said marine traffic data showed Bonu 5 approached the Amazigh F and Basbosa Star on September 24, 2015. The three vessels were side-by-side.
While ADJ Trading is in dissolution, with the last filed company records being those for 2015, Debono formed a new company in 2016, World Water Holdings Ltd.
Khalifa was said to have controlled a militia and chaired the board of directors of a Libyan company, Tiuboda Oil and Gas Services Limited, which requested a licence to import fuel into Malta. The report said that according to the Maltese authorities, the request was rejected owing to the situation in Libya.
Matthew Vella – Executive Editor at Mata Today.