The US embassy on Friday commended Malta over an anti-smuggling operation targeting illicit Libyan oil and fuel.  

"Through the international anti-money laundering operation, Malta has demonstrated its commitment to working with its regional and international partners, including Europol, Italy, the UK and the US, to protect Libya’s natural resources and to fight transnational organised crime," it said in a statement.

The embassy's comments come days after the police arraigned fuel trader Gordon Debono and his wife Yvette, their business partner Sean Higgins as well as former footballers Darren Debono and Jeffrey Chetcuti, on money laundering charges. 

Their arrests were part of a series of raids and the arrest of around a dozen people allegedly involved in operating and facilitating a fuel smuggling racket that violated international sanctions.

According to sources, Council of Europe’s Moneyval experts and foreign jurisdictions assisting Malta to step up its fight on financial crime, the local authorities were last year urged to bring a ring of fuel smugglers to justice to avoid being put on a grey list of countries that pose a high risk of financial crime.

On Friday, the US embassy noted that the local police's action underscored "the importance of regional cooperation" through initiatives like the Central Mediterranean Security Initiative, which is a collaborative export control forum where partners from Egypt, Italy, Libya, Malta, Tunisia, the UK, the US, and others come together to share information and best practices.

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