Siddiq al-Soor, head of the Attorney General's investigation department, speaks to journalists during a press conference in Tripoli, Libya, on March 14, 2018. Libya's public prosecutor on Wednesday confirmed that arrest warrants have been issued on those involved in fuel smuggling, mostly Libyans, with some Maltese and Italian nationals. (Xinhua/Hamza Turkia)
TRIPOLI, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Libya's public prosecutor on Wednesday confirmed that arrest warrants have been issued on those involved in fuel smuggling, mostly Libyans, with some Maltese and Italian nationals.
"After months of exhausting efforts of investigation, the prosecution obtained important information about international networks of Libyan fuel smuggling, with the help of smugglers inside the country," Siddiq al-Soor, head of the Attorney General's investigation department, told a press conference in Tripoli.
"These are crimes classified as money laundering and illegal graft, which have seriously damaged the national economy and caused the country's financial situation to deteriorate," Soor said, adding the Interpol international arrest warrants were also issued.
"Fuel smuggling takes place through Ras Ejdair and Dheba border crossings with Tunisia, and by sea from Zawiya all the way to Zwara cities in the west, where large amounts of government-subsidized fuel are smuggled on a daily basis," Soor added.
The smuggled fuel, especially diesel, is transported by fishing bulldozers off the port of Zwara, where the fuel is transported by illegal foreign oil tankers waiting off the city's coast that later move towards Malta, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Lebanon, he explained.
Soor pointed out that judicial proceedings were launched against those involved, including seizing their properties and freezing their bank accounts, in addition to banning them from traveling abroad.
The Libyan official confirmed that arrest warrants were issued on 60 fishing bulldozers carrying out smuggling of fuel off Libyan coast.
The Tripoli appeal court last week issued a verdict to confiscate a tanker called Al-Khayyam, imprisoning its crew members for 6 years, and fined it with 6 million dinars (4.5 million U.S. dollars) for smuggling more than 2.5 million liters of diesel.
The tanker case dates back to February 2016, when it was caught by Libyan naval forces smuggling fuel 25 miles off Zwara coast.
Western Libyan coast from the capital Tripoli all the way to the Tunisian border is witnessing an unprecedented activity of fuel smuggling.
The ongoing fuel smuggling since the fall of the regime of the late Gaddafi in 2011 has resulted in a fuel shortage in gas stations in western cities.
The Libyan fuel price is one of the lowest in the world, as the government subsidies it with more than 6 billion U.S. dollars annually.