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A dragnet off the coast of Libya. 14 smugglers charged

Arrest of traffickers by the coast guard (WebMarte archives)
Disembarkation of suspects in Augusta by the Italian Coast Guard (WebMarte archives)

(B2) 17 people were arrested on the night of October 22 during an operation carried out by the Italian Navy in international waters north of Libya. They came from Egypt. An arrest hailed by the political power. Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti came to congratulate the Italian military for this capture carried out as part of the national operation Safe Sea and coordinated with Italian justice.

Suspicious ship without flag spotted

The operation coordinated by the prosecutor in Syracuse, had started during the night. The suspect vessel, which was not flying a flag, was identified by the vessel Durand De La Penne (D-560), about 90 nautical miles northwest of the Libyan city of Derna. From teams of marines from the San Marco Brigade and a naval boarding commando De La Penne et Virginio Fasan, then boarded the suspect boat. This one, a fishing boat, was towing a second boat that had been used in human trafficking cases ” reports the staff of the Italian navy.

17 arrests

After inspection, seventeen people were arrested and taken to the Virginio Fasan (F-591), one of the FREMM frigates of the Italian Navy, then landed in the port of Augusta and made available to the judicial authorities. There they were "debriefed" by GICIC investigators (Gruppo interforze di contrasto all'immigrant clandestina), coordinated by the prosecutor Antonio Nicastro.

14 accused

Of the 17 suspects arrested, 3 were released. They were minors. And they were considered to be in the service of personnel without being involved in the criminal organization. The 14 others have been charged with aiding illegal immigration or even criminal association, Catania's anti-Mafia chief prosecutor Francesco Paolo Giordano announced at a press conference.

repeat offenders

Among them, 4 are repeat offenders. Some of the smugglers were previously arrested in Italy for the same offence”, specifies the prosecutor according to The Daily Made which gives some additional details. " One of them, in particular, had been involved in 2011, in an operation that led to the release of a group of 22 young Egyptians held captive by traffickers in an abandoned tuna boat on the coast of Santa Panagia, near Syracuse ". Their sentences had been reduced in the past for the same offence. And they had been released. Some even greeted the men of the GICIC who questioned them about Fasan, says our Italian colleague.

Under surveillance

This arrest owes nothing to chance. The traffickers were, in fact, under surveillance (2). Leaving from the Egyptian coast of Alexandria, they first transferred their "cargo" - 478 Iraqi, Syrian and African migrants of various nationalities - from a boat of smaller tonnage, about 200 nautical miles from the coast southern Sicily. When they got back to the mother ship, a larger fishing vessel, the marine commandos decided to intervene. The 478 migrants were rescued and disembarked in the port of Augusta between October 19 and 20.

A lack of ships

According to Gicic investigators, coordinated by Deputy Commissioner Carlo Parini. Each of the passengers reportedly paid $2000 each for passage. But the main thing is elsewhere. The smugglers' attempt to recover the ship that was used to transport the migrants " is a sign that, after a summer season which recorded record landings mainly due to the middle east crisis, it is increasingly difficult for criminal organizations to find barges in Egypt destined to be lost, sunk or left in the hands of the authorities once the trip is over ” indicates the deputy prosecutor Nicastro, coordinator of the GICIC.


(1) Operation Mare Securo aims to ensure maritime presence, surveillance and security in the central Mediterranean. Launched on March 12, it thus preceded the launch of the European operation EUNAVFOR Med (alias Sophia)  The system deployed in the central Mediterranean, “ over an area of ​​approximately 160.000 square kilometers, consists of 5 ships and about 1.000 soldiers permanently “, according to the Italian Navy.

(2) Hence the importance of cross-referencing information between the various forces present, of collecting evidence and debriefing interviews with migrants. Read also: Collection of evidence in the Mediterranean

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).