Darren Debono and three other Maltese are listed by the US Treasury in a new round of sanctions targeting oil smugglers in Libya aimed at blocking exploitation of natural resources that is driving instability.
In a statement on Monday, Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said it was sanctioning six people, 24 companies and seven vessels in a move that prohibits Americans from engaging with those targeted and freezes any related property under US jurisdictions.
OFAC designated Darren Debono, Gordon Debono, Rodrick Grech, Fahmi Ben Khalifa, Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan Ahmed Arafa, and Terence Micallef pursuant to E.O. 13726 for their involvement in the smuggling of petroleum products from Libya to Europe.
"In 2016, Maltese nationals Darren and Gordon Debono formed an unofficial consortium for illicit fuel smuggling from Zuwarah, Libya, to Malta and Italy in an operation that reportedly earned the group over €30 million. Libyan national Fahmi Ben Khalifa managed the Libya side of the fuel smuggling operation, and Maltese national Rodrick Grech transported the Libya-originated fuel to European ports where it was sold using falsified fuel certificates, reportedly forged by Egyptian-Maltese citizen Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan Arafa, to obfuscate the fuel’s origin. Additionally, Maltese national Terence Micallef operated a Malta-based shell company to sell the smuggled petroleum products in Europe," the Treasury said.
The action also targets 21 companies for being owned or controlled by Darren and Gordon Debono and three additional companies for being involved in the illicit exploitation of crude oil or any other natural resources in Libya, including the illicit production, refining, brokering, sale, purchase, or export of Libyan oil.
OFAC designated Malta-based Petroplus Limited, The Business Centre Ltd., Inovest Ltd., KB Lines Limited, Motorcycle Art Ltd, Hi-Low Properties Ltd, Eleven Eighty Eight Limited, Malta Directories Ltd, Mr. Handyman Ltd, KB Investments Limited, Seabrass Limited, Tara Limited, Krakern Limited, Gorge Limited, S-Cape Yacht Charter Limited, S-Cape Limited, and Italy-based Petropark SRL pursuant to E.O. 13726 for being owned or controlled by Gordon Debono.
OFAC also designated Malta-based Scoglitti Restaurant, Marie De Lourdes Co.Ltd, World Water Fisheries Ltd, and Andrea Martina Ltd for being owned or controlled by Darren Debono.
Malta-based companies ADJ Trading Limited and Oceano Blu Trading Limited and Libya-based Tiuboda Oil and Gas Services LLC were designated pursuant to E.O. 13726 for being involved in the illicit exploitation of crude oil or any other natural resources in Libya, including the illicit production, refining, brokering, sale, purchase, or export of Libyan oil.
ADJ Trading Limited is also owned or controlled by Darren Debono, Fahmi Ben Khalifa and Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan Arafa.
Finally, OFAC identified the vessel Theodors as blocked property of ADJ Trading Limited, the vessels Progres, Zeus and Bonu 5 as blocked property of Andrea Martina Limited, and the vessels Marie de Loures, Marie de Lourdes 1 and Marie de Lourdes V as blocked property of World Water Fisheries Limited.
The United Nations Security Council has condemned illicit exploitation of oil from Libya, which has been mired in conflict since an uprising in 2011 that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, who led the country for more than 30 years.
"Oil smuggling undermines Libya's sovereignty, fuels the black market and contributes to further instability in the region while robbing the population of resources that are rightly theirs," OFAC's statement said.
Libya's oil production has steadied but is still well below the 1.6 million barrels per day it was pumping before the insurgency seven years ago and is suffering from theft, abduction and other security threats.
Production from at least one Libyan oil field has also been disrupted by a dispute over security guards' pay.