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Libyan attorney general issues arrest warrants for scores of suspected fuel smugglers

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144 fuel smugglers

Libya’s attorney general has issued arrest warrants for more than 144 fuel smugglers operating in the western region of the country.

The move was praised by the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC), which issued a statement highlighting the damage the country’s booming trade in illicit fuel is causing to its economy.

“The NOC commends the attorney general’s decision to issue arrest warrants against more than 144 smugglers in western Libya,” it said.

“Smuggling costs the Libyan economy and citizens hundreds of millions. Those who take part in such serious criminal acts are working against the interests of all Libyans and cause suffering in different cities of our beloved country.”

The NOC called for the arrest of every person involved in the illicit smuggling of fuel across Libya, singling out the former leader of the Oil Installation Guards, Ibrahim Al-Jathran, who closed down major oil ports in eastern Libya for years, and is thought to have been involved in the illicit sale of fuel.

It is estimated that the Libyan government has lost out on some $140 billion as result of the regular closure of oil fields and ports and the illegal sale of fuel.

In October last year, prosecutors in Italy suggested there may have been links between the murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and a Libyan illicit fuel-smuggling network.

Discussing the case with the Guardian, Sicilian chief prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro said he could not rule out the possibility that some of those under investigation on suspicion of being part of the alleged fuel-smuggling ring may have played a part in Caruana Galizia’s execution.

Caruana Galizia’s worked on a number of stories that exposed the illegal trafficking of stolen fuel from Libya to Malta that may have angered some of the suspects thought to have been part of a major smuggling network Zuccaro was investigating.

Months earlier, Reuters reported that the NOC had claimed to have identified “illegal” efforts to sell crude oil without its approval, and warned potential buyers not to enter into such contracts.

“NOC identified a group of individuals abusing the current status of political division in Libya by entering into illegal contracts with unknown or unqualified companies,” the NOC said in a statement.

“These individuals, and others associated with them, have offered Libyan crude oil for sale at huge discounts below the official selling price.”

Fears have been raised that Daesh has launched attempts to profit from Libya’s illicit fuel trade, which has grown exponentially as the security situation in the country has deteriorated.

Earlier this month, sources from Libyan National Army told Arabic international newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Daesh elements were thought to be planning attacks on fields in the country’s “oil crescent” area.

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Gibraltar and Japan Tobacco International agree to tackle smuggling of firm’s cigarette and rolling tobacco brands

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Gibraltar and Japan Tobacco International agree to tackle smuggling

Officials in Gibraltar and UK customs authorities have teamed up with Japan Tobacco International (JTI) to protect the legitimate trade in tobacco products and foster a stable and transparent tobacco market in the British overseas territory.

The aim of the new partnership, which was agreed during the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Friday, is to prevent smugglers from trafficking JTI brand tobacco problems into Spain via Gibraltar.

The agreement will see the signees work to improve information and intelligence sharing, and result in customs workers based in Gibraltar receiving training on how to tell the difference between authentic and counterfeit tobacco products.

One of the largest importers and producers of tobacco in Europe, JTI owns numerous high-profile brands that are routinely targeted by smugglers, including Winston, Camel, Silk Cut, Benson and Hedges, American Spirit and Old Holborn.

The MoU was signed during a ceremony at Gibraltar International Airport in the presence of Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo, Collector of Customs of HM Customs Gibraltar John Rodríguez, and Tom Osborne, JTI Iberia General Manager.

Members of the Anti-Illicit Trade Department of JTI were also in attendance.

Picardo commented: “We welcome the signing of this MoU with JTI as we are committed to working in partnership with the tobacco manufacturers to eradicate illicit trade in tobacco products. Illicit trade fosters further criminality across frontiers, unsociable behaviour and harms legitimate business.

“We continually review our procedures and legislation to ensure proper compliance with our laws and conditions of tobacco licences by all local entities involved in the tobacco business.”

Speaking as the agreement was signed, Osborne said it is vital that the tobacco industry works with world governments to prevent the counterfeiting and smuggling of its products, noting that the illicit trade in cigarettes and rolling tobacco is an issue that “impacts tax collection, the stability of the market and promotes disrespect for the law and disrupts public security”.

Last week, UK tobacco industry trade body the TMA published the results of a poll that showed the illicit trade in tobacco products “remains resilient” in Britain.

The survey, for which 12,000 adult smokers were questioned, revealed that more than three-quarters (76%) of respondents had purchased tobacco products over the preceding 12 months on which UK tax had not been paid.

TMA Director Rupert Lewis said: “These survey findings highlight the volume and widespread availability of illicit tobacco throughout the UK and the ‘relaxed’ attitude that many consumers have towards buying and selling illicit tobacco, believing it to be a ‘victimless’ crime.”

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Canadian police smash counterfeit currency network that flooded Surrey with bogus US dollar bills

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Canadian police smash counterfeit currency network

Police in Canada have charged four people with various offences after breaking up a counterfeit currency ring that was circulating counterfeit US bills with a face value of thousands of dollars in the Metro Vancouver area.

The operation that resulted in the suspects’ arrest began at the beginning of January after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) received multiple reports of bogus US bills being passed off to several businesses in the Newton area of Surrey, a city in British Columbia.

The investigation, which was launched after it was established that counterfeit banknotes with a face value of more than $5,000 had been circulated in the region, culminated at the end of last month with a raid on a residential property.

Officers participating in the raid discovered fake US bills with a face value of more than £12,000, an array of weapons and equipment that had been used to print the counterfeit currency.

Kaymen Winter, Tassie Winter, Mitchell Coubrough and Terita Herbert have now been charged with a number of offences, including making counterfeit currency, possession of prohibited weapons, and possession of counterfeit documents.

In a statement, Surrey RCMP Corporal David Amerlinck said: “Counterfeit currency can be particularly harmful to small independent business owners.

“The victims of this type of fraud often find themselves paying out of pocket for the financial losses. It’s affecting their business, but in many cases they are affected personally as well.”

In a separate operation, a coalition of Canadian law enforcement agencies arrested and charged two people in Ontario in connection with various transnational scams, including the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) telephone scam, the Bank Investigator scam and the tech support scam.

The CRA scam involved callers identifying themselves as CRA officials and bullying victims into paying non-existent fines or taxes.

Operating from India, the fraudsters behind the scam are thought to have been actively targeting Canadians since 2014, and are estimated to have conned victims out of more than CA$16.8 million ($12.7 million).

Gurinderpreet Dhaliwal and Inderpreet Dhaliwal have both been charged with fraud and handling the proceeds of crime.

Phone fraudsters commonly target victims while pretending to be calling from government agencies.

Last July, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed that complaints to its Consumer Sentinel Network about government imposter scams had reached record levels over the spring

Back in 2016, it was reported that a prospective university student from Shandong province in China had died of a heart attack after she was conned out of her tuition fees in a phone scam.

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Europe’s ‘most wanted’ man extradited back to Romania from UK to face sex trafficking and murder conspiracy charges

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Europe’s ‘most wanted’ man extradited

A man who is thought to be the leader of a major organised crime gang has been extradited from the UK to Romania to face trial, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Friday.

Florin Ghinea, known in the underworld by the nickname Ghenosu, was arrested by NCA officers as he left a gym in Watford back in August 2018 after he disappeared from Romania that May.

Ghinea, 45, was listed at the time as being one of Europol’s most wanted men, and was being sought for questioning by police in Romania in relation to a series of crimes including human trafficking, conspiracy to murder, blackmail and money laundering.

Investigators believe he headed up a sex trafficking ring that involved Romanian women being sent to locations including Dubai, Finland and Ireland.

Ghinea is also said to have conspired to have a criminal rival murdered.

He was flown from London to Bucharest on Wednesday following the conclusion of UK extradition proceedings.

Commenting on Ghinea’s removal from the UK, Head of European Operations for NCA International Dave Hucker said in a statement: “Ghinea was arrested as a result of some excellent joint working between the NCA and Romanian law enforcement.

“His departure is a huge success, and I’ve no doubt our streets are safer as a result.”

Ghinea was placed on the Europol wanted list in May 2018, and promptly disappeared from his home in Dambovita County before Romanian police carried out a raid.

Romanian prosecutors claimed at the time that he was tipped off by a crooked police officer before investigators were able to act.

After being extradited back to his native country this week, Ghinea was taken directly to a court in Bucharest to face charges of sex trafficking, money laundering, complicity in human trafficking, and being a member of an organised criminal gang.

Images posted online by Romanian media last week showed Ghinea being escorted through Bucharest airport by masked police officers.

Speaking after the alleged kingpin was apprehended in the UK back in 2018, NCA Deputy Director Tom Dowdall said his arrest had made UK streets safer.

“Ghinea was being sought by the Romanian authorities for some extremely serious offences, including human trafficking and murder, and was quite rightly regarded as one of Europe’s most wanted,” he said.

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