Maltese Company Cleared of Breaching Arms Embargo on Libya


On Tuesday, a Maltese court cleared the owner of a vessel chartering company and four employees of breaching the EU arms embargo on Libya, according to the Times of Malta newspaper.

The court declared that the military-grade inflatable boats leased to evacuate workers from Libya did not feature among the “very limited” list of prohibited goods.

The five were charged with violating an EU regulation prohibiting the sale, supply, transfer, or export of equipment “to any person, entity or body in Libya or for use in Libya” which might be used for “internal repression”.

Investigations by the Maltese anti-terrorist squad were triggered when a boat arrived in Malta with some 20 people in July 2019. They were not asylum seekers, but evidently trained personnel bearing South African, British, Australian, and American passports.

They later told police that they had been tasked by their employer, Opus Capital, to carry out geological surveys in Libya and had opted to flee after noticing a spike in the presence of militias.

Investigations led to charges being issued against the company for ferrying the workers to Libya in terms of a charter party agreement, which was signed between Sovereign Capital and Opus Capital. They denied the charges.

EU Regulation 2016/44, laid out a “most limited list of six goods” which were not to be transferred, sold or supplied to Libya. It did not lay down a blanket prohibition but clearly stated that the prohibition applied “limitedly to goods mentioned under Annex VII”. Turning to the case at hand, the court observed that, obviously, goods not included in that list required no “prior authorisation” by the Sanctions Monitoring Board.

“By proving its case on a balance of probability, the defence had reduced the prosecution’s case to nothing,” the court concluded.