How smuggled Libyan oil brought by Debonos’ ships was stored in Malta: investigation
03 Mar 2020

A Swiss company was accepting smuggled fuel from Libya inside tanks leased from Enemed between 2014 and 2015, to resell the oil at sea and the European market.

Kolmar, of Zug, acquired the oil from the smuggling operation ran by Libyan smuggler Fahmi Slim Ben Khalifa, and Maltese nationals Darren and Gordon Debono, well before the Italian police caught up with the smuggling network.

The oil was cleared by the Malta Customs despite fraudulent certification from Fahmi Slim’s Tiuboda company, while the tanks were leased to Kolmar after the Swiss company made a public bid for the storage. Enemed, the government petroleum divison, has said it was unaware of the contents of the storage because the oil had been cleared by Customs.

Using data from ship movements and information on bank payments, a new investigation confirms that the tanks at Ras Hanzir and Has Saptan were used to store oil delivered by the ships chartered by Darren and Gordon Debono.

But the fuel was accepted by the Malta Customs despite fraudulent certificates of origin, and the numerous protests of Libyan leaders about fuel being smuggled into Malta.

The revelations are part of an investigation carried out by NGO TRIAL International and the Swiss public advocacy group Public Eye, which campaigns on issues of corporate accountability.

Together with journalists and the assistance of MaltaToday in obtaining information through Freedom of Information requests, the report reveals a sustained pattern of deliveries of smuggled Libyan oil, into tanks leased out from Enemed, the government’s petroleum company, by Kolmar.

The oil was later blended out at sea so that it could be resold onto the European market.

Specifically, over 20 shipments of marine gasoil from Libya were delivered to Kolmar’s tanks in Malta between the spring of 2014 and the summer of 2015, from ships chartered by Gordon Debono.

These new findings concern activities that predate what was revealed by a United Nations panel of experts in 2015 which led to the arrests of ‘smuggling king’ Fahmi Slim, the Debonos and their Italian associates.

A copy of a Banif Bank statement for Oceano Blu Trading Ltd, a company linked to Darren Debono and based at his San Gwann address, shows that from 18 June to 22 July 2015, Kolmar made 11 transfers totalling over $11 million. Oceano Blu Trading was administered by the Sicilian Nicola Orazio Romeo, who is also indicted over fuel smuggling in Sicily.

From October 2012 to December 2015, Kolmar was the exclusive leaser of Ras Hanzir’s eight fuel tanks; from July to December 2015, Kolmar also occupied all five fuel tanks at the Has Saptan underground storage near Malta Airport.

Using data from the automatic identification systems (AIS) of the ships Amazigh F, Ruta and Selay – all chartered by Darren and Gordon Debono – the report finds shocking results: from 27 May 2014 to 18 July 2015, the three ships offloaded some 50,000 MT of marine gasoil 22 times at Ras Hanzir (19) and Has Saptan (3), during the time Kolmar leased these storage units.

And the data between the ships’ mooring at the dolphins on nine dates between 15 June and 17 July 2015, overlaps the same days between 18 June and 22 July 2015 when Kolmar transferred its €11 million in payments to Oceano Blu Trading.

Today it is known that the smuggled oil from Libya was being passed off to the Maltese authorities, chiefly the Customs Department, using fraudulent certificates of origin from Fahmi Slim’s company Tiuboda Oil Refining Company: they were accepted from Kolmar by the Maltese authorities without batting an eyelid.

By Matthew Vella, MaltaToday, 2 March 2020

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