Ship’s captain held in Lebanon over border plot to smuggle fuel to Syria

The vessel’s journey began in Istanbul, and it sailed to the Greek island of Crete before arriving off Lebanon at the end of September. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 07 October 2020

Ship’s captain held in Lebanon over border plot to smuggle fuel to Syria

  • The Panamanian-registered Jaguar S was intercepted off the Lebanese coast at Zahrani, a notorious stronghold for the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and the Amal Movement

BEIRUT: A ship’s captain and a shipping agent were arrested in Lebanon on Tuesday on charges of trying to smuggle 4 million liters of petrol into Syria.
The arrests have shone a light on flagrant violations in Lebanon of the US Caesar Act, which targets trade with the Assad regime and imposes sanctions for noncompliance.
Bashir Matar, head of Al-Qaa border municipality, told Arab News that smuggling was rife on Lebanon’s border with Syria, with illegal transport of fuel as well as people trafficking, and that rival gangs fought over lucrative routes.
“On the outskirts of the Al-Qaa plain on the border, battles broke out … between Syrian and Lebanese families and clans over a plot of land used as a crossing for smuggling,” he said.
“We are witnessing attempts by several groups to seize land close to the borders to be used for smuggling.”
Security sources told Arab News the Panamanian-registered Jaguar S was intercepted off the Lebanese coast at Zahrani, a notorious stronghold for the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and the Amal Movement.
Investigators believe the ship’s crew intended to circumvent the Caesar Act, and Lebanese military intelligence and police suggested the two detainees had confessed to planning to unload the fuel in Lebanon before smuggling it into Syria.
The vessel’s journey began in Istanbul, and it sailed to the Greek island of Crete before arriving off Lebanon at the end of September.
“The ship switched off its GPS device before entering Lebanese waters so that its movement could not be monitored via satellites,” a security source told Arab News.
“Upon docking, its cargo was supposed to be unloaded in cooperation with complicit parties and transported in installments by land to Syria, protected by forces that benefit from this operation and control the illegal crossings between Lebanon and Syria.
“An inspection of the manifest by Lebanese customs showed that the ship, which is flying the flag of Panama, had changed its name more than once in the past years.
“The Syrian Al-Naem Co., based in Harasta, Damascus, is communicating with influential people in Lebanon to get the shipment of petrol through Lebanese territory in order to be smuggled into Syria by land to bypass the Caesar Act.”

 


Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

Updated 27 min 40 sec ago

Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

  • Hariri immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan
  • He has previously led three governments in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Three-time Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was named to the post for a fourth time Thursday and immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan.
Hariri said he would “form a cabinet of non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap.”
“I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out and this is the only and last chance facing our country,” he added.
President Michel Aoun named Hariri to form a new cabinet to lift the country out of crisis after most parliamentary blocs backed his nomination.
Hariri, who has previously led three governments in Lebanon, stepped down almost a year ago under pressure from unprecedented protests against the political class.
“The president summoned... Saad Al-Deen Al-Hariri to task him with forming a government,” a spokesman for the presidency said.
Hariri was backed by a majority of 65 lawmakers, while 53 abstained.
Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades and still reeling from a devastating port blast that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of Beirut in August.
Aoun warned Wednesday that the new prime minister, the third in a year, would have to spearhead reforms and battle corruption.
A relatively unknown diplomat, Mustapha Adib, had been nominated in late August following the resignation of his predecessor Hassan Diab’s government in the aftermath of the deadly port blast.
Adib had vowed to form a cabinet of experts, in line with conditions set by French President Emmanuel Macron to help rescue the corruption-ridden country from its worst ever economic crisis.
He faced resistance from some of the main parties however and threw in the towel nearly a month later, leaving Lebanon rudderless to face soaring poverty and the aftermath of its worst peacetime disaster.