ROME (Reuters) - Sicilian police on Wednesday sought the arrest of nine people, including a suspected mobster, for running a Libyan fuel-smuggling ring in which at least 30 million euros ($35 million) of diesel was sold in gas stations in Italy and Europe.
A Libyan, nicknamed the “boss”, used small boats to steal fuel from a refinery in Zawiya, a port city west of Tripoli, a statement from the finance police said.
The fuel, stolen from Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), was then transferred to a larger ship off the coast of Malta and brought to Italy.
Police from the Sicilian city of Catania “documented in detail 30 voyages in which more than 80 million kilos of diesel fuel was imported,” the statement said.
For the first time, the Catania court authorized the use of technology capable of listening in on satellite phone calls during the investigation, police said.
Six of the nine have been arrested and an international arrest warrant has been issued for the other three, who are abroad.
One of the men arrested, Nicola Romeo, has been accused of being a member of the Santapaola clan of the Sicilian mafia, while the Libyan, Fahmi Mousa Saleem Ben Khalifa, is already in custody in Libya on accusations of fuel smuggling.
Another Italian man headed a seemingly legitimate company used to distribute the stolen fuel in gas stations in Italy, France and Spain, police said.
The Italian company offered its diesel to distributors for up to 60 percent less than market prices.
Though the quality of the diesel, which was meant for ships’ engines, was of a lower standard than that used by vehicles in Italy, it was sold at the same price.
($1 = 0.8499 euros)
Reporting by Steve Scherer