A Lebanese Ship Is Accused Of Smuggling Arms to Libya

Italian anti-organized crime and special operations police arrested the captain of a Lebanese cargo ship called the Bana, in northern Italy, on suspicion that the ship was internationally trafficking arms.

The ship and its captain are under investigation for trafficking tanks, rockets, and other weapons from Turkey to Libya.

The captain and its ship, with the help of the Turkish military that has not been identified yet, are in violation of the United Nations arms embargo, which was imposed by the UN Security Council on Libya in 2011.

The French authorities had this ship under surveillance for a while, and their aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle was shadowing it last January. According to French officials, the aircraft spotted a Turkish frigate off the Libyan coast escorting the Bana only last month.  

According to Le Monde, other French fighter jets on reconnaissance missions also spotted this delivery.

Italian authorities were made aware of the ship’s illegal transports when a Lebanese crew member reported the ship upon its arrival at the port of Genoa earlier in February. 

The crew member claimed that military vehicles and arms were loaded onto the Bana at a Turkish port and transported to Libya, heading to the Lybian capital Tripoli.

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The sailor, aiming for political asylum, claimed that 10 Turkish agents, including military officials, traveled on the cargo ship from Mersin in Turkey to Tripoli, staying in the hold near armored vehicles, as reported by the Genoa daily newspaper Il Secolo XIX.

Italian prosecutor Franceso Pinto told The Associated Press that the sailor had photographic proof that there were military vehicles on the ship.

In attempts to regain influence as a geopolitical player in Libya, Italy embarked on a vigorous monitoring operation to enforce the international arms embargo, especially in North Africa.  

Italian investigators have launched a full-scale investigation, analyzing ship equipment for a detailed route of the Bana and are planning to interrogate its crew members as soon as the results come out.

The owner of the Cargo ship, Lebanese Merhi Abou Merhi, denied any allegations of transporting military personnel and weapons into Libya.

Merhi was previously accused in 2015 of laundering money for Hezbollah and was later removed from the list of sanctioned individuals in 2017.

As of yet, the Lebanese government hasn’t made any official public statements regarding the cargo ship.