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Tanker Shipping & Trade

Fuel oil fraud: new arrest in illegal tanker operation investigation

Wed 31 Oct 2018 by Craig Jallal, tankers and markets editor

Fuel oil fraud: new arrest in illegal tanker operation investigation
Valletta Harbour: illegal Libyan fuel oil cargoes were transferred in full view of officials

Italian tax police have arrested another suspect in the ongoing investigation into an alleged US$50M VAT fraud, invoice fraud, money laundering and smuggling operation of Libyan fuel oil.

According to local press reports and Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Antonio Desiata has been arrested and assets in the form of 29M litres of fuel, 11 properties in Genoa, Trieste and Abbiategrasso and a 14-m yacht seized.

Mr Desiata was arrested as the de facto administrator of the Rome-based Oilchem ​​srl and of the Milan-based Xcel Petroleum -- companies operating in the wholesale of petroleum products -- and is expected to be charged with tax fraud. 

The Italian tax police mounted operation "Dirty Oil" several years ago to investigate the smuggling of fuel oil from militia-controlled oil refineries in Zuwara, Libya, on modified fishing boats equipped with cargo tanks. These vessels allegedly performed ship-to-ship transfers in the Mediterranean with tankers said to be owned by Maltese brothers Darren Debono and Gordon Debono, who are being held on bail in Italy.

The tankers, named as Barbosa Star, Sea Master X and Amazing F, were observed by investigators delivering the fuel oil via dolphin and pipeline in the Grand Harbour of Valletta.

The fuel oil was allegedly stored in Malta and re-labelled by local officials as being from Saudi Arabia, before allegedly being smuggled by other channels into Italy, were it was allegedly sold below market prices at unbranded diesel pumps up and down the country, depriving the Italian treasury of around US$50M in VAT.

Business, operational and technical issues impacting the crude, product and chemical tanker trades will be discussed in London at the Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference, Awards & Exhibition, 20-21 November 2018.

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