Albanian police seized a Liberia-registered ship in the coast town of Durres on Monday on suspicion of carrying Russian oil.
The police operation, carried out with other law enforcement agencies against the Liberia-registered ship, resulted in the arrest of the ship’s 22-member crew.
Some 22,500 tons of oil was seized from the ship, with a market value exceeding 40 million euros.
“The ship started its travel from Azerbaijan and claimed to have been supplied with oil in Kalamata, Greece, from another ship,” said police.
The alibi provided by the Liberia-registered ship was deemed insufficient by Albanian authorities, who say the oil actually originated in Russia.
Albania has backed Western and EU sanctions against Russia in relation to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
This is not the first time criminals have attempted to traffick petroleum products to Albania.
In September last year, the Albanian Coast Guard seized the tanker Queen Majeda, carrying some 2,275 tons of oil. The oil had been sourced in Benghazi, Libya, an area outside of the control of the internationally recognized government of Libya.
The crew on board included nine Libyans and one Syrian.
“With ten crew members, the oil tanker belonging to a company “Eldawadi Shipping LTD”, which is registered in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, had left Libya with a cargo of 2272.71 tons of oil and arrived at the Albanian coast with the aim of performing customs practices for the Albanian importing entity “Kastrati” sh.a”, explains one document belonging to Albanian prosecutors.
The ship was stopped by Albanian authorities, and its crew accused of “trading and transporting goods that are contraband.”
The load of oil, described as “Marine Gasoil 1000 PPM”, was seized.
“It is worth noting that this ship, through “GK Maritime” with representative E.K. had previously announced its intention to anchor in Porto Romano, with a load of oil, in order to sell it to the Albanian entity “Kastrati sh.a.,” read prosecutors’ documents.
One official described the process of handling the contraband as follows:
“After the cargo is ascertained, the customs are notified and the goods are evaluated. This penalty was not imposed because no one asked us. When smuggling is detected by anyone, we make a report that goes to the police and everything remains frozen until the debt is paid. But on the other hand, if there is evidence that smuggling is being carried out, it will be waited until it is unloaded, because smuggling presupposes illegal entry.”
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