On Thursday, Libya’s Public Prosecutor, Al-Siddiq Al-Sour levelled serious accusations against key customs authorities in Libya, including Ali Al-Mabrouk, the Head of Ras Ajdir customs, Mohamed El-Ayeb, the Head of the Automated Inspection Office, and Hassan Al-Darwish, the former Director of Administrative and Financial Affairs at the Customs Authority.
They are charged with extorting a representative of “Engineering Software Industriali,” an Italian firm, according to an official letter addressed to the Ministry of Finance.
The correspondence details how these officials allegedly resorted to extortion, undue delay, and intimidation tactics against the company’s representative, over incidents of vandalism and theft that affected the company’s projects and supplies in the country.
They are also accused of “gross negligence in overseeing and protecting the worksites under their jurisdiction.” In a controversial move, they allegedly tried to force the Italian company to bear the costs related to the theft and vandalism, offering to release the company’s pending contractual payments in exchange, rather than pursuing those responsible for the crimes.
This development highlights deep-rooted issues of corruption, and misuse of authority in Libya’s bureaucratic institutions, particularly in the customs sector. Such practices have been exacerbated by Libya’s ongoing political instability, which has compromised governance and accountability mechanisms.
The case brings into focus the precarious position of foreign enterprises operating in Libya. These companies often navigate a challenging environment, characterised by bureaucratic hurdles and security concerns, which are crucial for Libya’s path to economic revival and growth.
Furthermore, this incident underscores the critical need for systemic reform in Libya’s customs and governmental institutions. Enhancing transparency, accountability, and ethical governance is essential to fostering a reliable, and business-friendly environment, both for domestic entrepreneurs and international investors.
The Libyan government’s handling of this scandal is a litmus test of its resolve to combat corruption, and improve its institutional integrity. Successfully addressing such challenges is key to restoring confidence in Libyan institutions, and attracting the foreign investment and expertise necessary for the country’s recovery and development.