US imposes sanctions on smugglers
On 6 August, the United States Treasury Department said in a statement that it had blacklisted three individuals, one Malta-based company and one vessel, all of which it said were acting as a network of smugglers and contributing to instability in Libya. The individuals were Faysal al-Wadi, who operated the vessel Maraya and whom the Treasury Department accused of smuggling drugs and Libyan fuel into Malta, and two of his associates, Muhammed Wadi and Nourredine Meeloud Mesbah. The company was Al-Wafaq, Ltd., which was accused of ‘owning or acting on behalf of’ the associates. The Treasury Department further accused the individuals of transporting Libyan refined petrol and drugs between the port of Zuwara and Hurd’s Bank off the coast of Malta, ‘a well-known geographic transfer location for illicit maritime transactions’.
According to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Wadi has worked with a network of contacts in North Africa and southern Europe to smuggle fuel from, and illicit drugs through, Libya to Malta. OFAC also asserted that Wadi smuggled drugs and fuel from Libya into Malta itself. The sanctions also come as the UN Security Council appears stymied in passing resolutions to implement penalties against smuggling of arms into Libya. In the absence of credible enforcement of the UN arms embargo, such actions by the US Treasury Department may be becoming the main ‘stick’ to threaten various Libyan sides and try to drive them to the negotiating table.
The announcement of sanctions by the US is likely meant to serve as a statement of intent and warning to Libyan and international actors that the US is now more engaged and is willing to undertake serious sanctions on actors perceived as threatening the stability of the country, especially vis-à-vis refined petrol smuggling.