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Libyan Officials Arrested In $1.9bn Gold Trafficking

IN a startling revelation, Libyan authorities have detained multiple customs officials on suspicion of orchestrating a brazen attempt to traffic an astounding 26 tonnes of gold, with an estimated value of nearly $1.9bn, abroad. Prosecutors announced the apprehensions, shedding light on a sophisticated operation that challenges the nation’s already fragile stability.

The Libyan prosecutor’s office refrained from disclosing the precise origins of the colossal amount of precious metal, which surpasses the national gold reserves of numerous countries. This revelation has triggered widespread concern and scrutiny over the intricate networks facilitating such illicit activities within Libya’s borders.


The arrests were made by authorities in Misrata, a pivotal city in western Libya, directly linked to the trafficking at the international airport. Offering insights into the operation, the prosecutor’s office, in a statement released on social media, declared, ‘The investigating authorities ordered the arrest of the director-general of customs and customs officials at the international airport of Misrata.’

According to official statements, the attempted trafficking occurred in December 2023, involving gold bars weighing approximately 25,875 kilograms. Libyan law unequivocally reserves the authority to export gold solely to the central bank, emphasising the severity of the alleged breach. The prosecutor’s office initiated an investigation into the matter in January, unravelling the intricate web of illegal activities.

Libya’s tumultuous political landscape, stemming from the aftermath of the 2011 overthrow and subsequent demise of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, has provided fertile ground for such illicit operations. The nation remains divided between the UN-recognised government led by Abdelhamid Dbeibah in Tripoli and a rival administration backed by Khalifa Haftar in the east, exacerbating governance challenges and enabling exploitation.

Misrata, situated east of the capital Tripoli, emerges as a significant battleground in Libya’s complex narrative, having played a pivotal role in toppling Gaddafi’s regime and combating violent extremism. However, it now finds itself entangled in the web of illicit activities, highlighting the multifaceted challenges confronting the nation.

The exploitation of Libya’s resources, particularly gold, has attracted international attention, with concerns raised by organisations such as The Sentry, a US-based non-governmental group specialising in conflict-related issues. According to a report published by the group last November, Libya has evolved into a pivotal hub for illicit gold trafficking over the past decade. The report underscores the strategic role of transit points, notably the ports and airports in the Misrata-Zliten-Khums area and Benghazi in the east, in facilitating such illicit activities.

As Libyan authorities continue their investigation, the arrests of customs officials shed light on the intricate web of illicit activities undermining the nation’s stability and prosperity. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the challenges posed by political instability and the exploitation of resources in Libya’s arduous journey towards sustainable development and governance.

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