Libya seizes 26 tonnes of gold in smuggling op

Libyan authorities have arrested several customs officials, including the director general of customs at Misrata International Airport, for attempting to illegally export a staggering 26 tonnes of gold worth nearly $1.9 billion.

The origin of the gold remains unclear, but its sheer volume surpasses the official gold reserves of many countries.

This raises serious questions about potential smuggling networks operating within Libya.

According to a statement released by the Libyan prosecutor’s office, the arrests occurred in Misrata, a western port city that has played a significant role in recent Libyan conflicts.

The gold, in the form of bars, was discovered in December 2023 during a trafficking attempt.

Libyan law restricts gold exports solely to the central bank. Authorities opened an investigation in January upon uncovering this illicit operation.

This incident highlights the ongoing challenges facing Libya.

The country continues to grapple with political instability and division since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

Two rival administrations currently vie for control – the UN-recognized government in Tripoli led by Abdelhamid Dbeibah and the eastern administration backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

The US-based Sentry organization, which investigates financial crimes in conflict zones, previously identified Libya as a major hub for illicit gold trafficking.

Their report, published last November, pinpointed Misrata and Benghazi as key transit points for smuggling gold out of the country, often towards the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

The arrest of these customs officials is a significant development, exposing potential corruption within Libyan institutions and raising concerns about the scale of gold smuggling within the country.

Further investigations are likely to shed light on the origin and destination of this massive amount of gold, and hopefully lead to dismantling the networks involved in this illicit activity.

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