Libyan militias continue to benefit from external weapons support: UN Libya Experts Panel report

By Sami Zaptia:

The UN Libya Experts Panel report.

The UN Libya Experts Panel report.

London, 11 March 2018:

Armed groups within Libya continue to benefit from external support including the provision of materiel, targeted airstrikes at night and sophisticated munitions, the UN Libya Experts Panel report states in its section on the implementation of the arms embargo.

‘‘Armed groups within Libya continue to benefit from external support in terms of both direct interventions and in the provision of materiel. Such support includes high-end capabilities such as targeted airstrikes at night and sophisticated munitions. Bordering countries continue to see military materiel transiting from Libya, including armoured vehicles.

Seizures have demonstrated that materiel transits through Libya as well as crosses national boundaries, an issue which may be exacerbated by the exploitation of materiel for which exemptions were submitted to the Committee, which is not sufficiently secured, risking such imports becoming a new source of diversion.

Transfers of materiel to Libya during the revolution (February to September 2011)

The Panel has noted a report explaining that around 400 vehicles were transferred with the sponsorship of Qatar from the UAE (at the time both governments were still cooperating in supporting the opposition to the Qaddafi regime) to Sudan. In Sudan, the vehicles were fitted with weapons and transferred to Libyan armed groups. According to this report and information obtained by the Panel, the transfer resulted from an agreement negotiated between Abd al-Hakim Belhaj and Qatar. The Panel will continue its investigations on the issue.

Transfers of materiel after the revolution (September 2011 to August 2014)

The risk of diversion and misuse of end-user certificates

In paragraph 13(a) of resolution 2009 (2011), the Security Council considerably eased arms embargo restrictions. Subsequent reporting by the Panel indicated the diversion of arms and related materiel of all types — falsely declaring the Libyan authorities as addressee — into the hands of armed groups outside of State control. In paragraph 12 of resolution 2095 (2013), the Security Council urged the Libyan government to improve the monitoring of arms and related materiel including through the use of end-user certificates.

The Panel has highlighted in a previous report that several notified transfers used end-user certificates that were signed by the political leadership of the Ministries of Defence and Interior respectively. The Deputy Minister of Defence, Khaled al-Sharif, figured most prominently as signatory of end-user certificates for large-scale transfers of small arms and light weapons as well as ammunition.

The White Star company and procurement under the General National Congress government

The Panel has continued its investigations on notified materiel based on end-user certificates signed by Khaled al-Sharif. It obtained documents and statements suggesting that Khaled al-Sharif used the Libyan company White Star as a front to purchase the materiel and wired the payments through a front company registered in Tunisia, called “Société Al Bayan de Commerce Internationale” (Al Bayan).

One of the end-user certificates indicates a possible violation of the arms embargo in mid- 2013. On 17 September 2013, Bulgaria submitted an incomplete notification to the Committee on the transfer of 2,028,000 rounds of 7.62x39mm ammunition. The exporting Bulgarian company was Vazovski  Machinostroitelni  Zavodi  (VMZ)  and  the  broker  was  AIK  Trading  Limited registered in Cyprus. Based on the Panel’s enquiry Bulgaria, noted that the export licence for the ammunition was cancelled on 15 October 2013. AIK Ltd however, received on 5 June 2013 the full payment of Euro 381,264.00 from Al Bayan, which suggests that the delivery had already taken place before a licence was issued.

The Panel reviewed the financial transaction from Al Bayan’s Tunisian bank account. From January 2013 to May 2015, the company received funds from several Libyan accounts of over 253 million USD. In the same time period, the company transferred approximately the same amount of money to companies and offshore trading companies in several countries. Further investigations brought to light a payment of two million Euro to a Greek company. Scrutiny of the transactions sheds light on the role of the Libyan company White Star as a fraudulent front for Khaled al-Sharif and his associates.

A Greek broker had introduced the Greek manufacturer to Khaled al-Sharif. The first meeting in Tripoli in early 2013 was attended by Khaled al-Sharif, Abd al-Hakim Belhaj, and the Director of White Star. It was followed by a visit to the factory in Greece to Athens. White Star signed the contract to purchase 181 tanker trucks following Khaled Al- Sharif’s instructions. The down payment of 2 million Euro, however, was done through the intermediary of Al Bayan’s Tunisian bank account. At the current stage the investigations suggest that Khaled al-Sharif was involved in White Star and used it as an intermediary for the Ministry of Defence’s procurement.

Al Bayan was used to channel money from Libyan companies to veil the origin of the funds. The transaction to the Greek company shows that White Star used Al Bayan to transfer money. It also sheds light on Khaled al-Sharif’s close connection to White Star in the procurement of equipment for the Ministry of Defence in Tripoli.

Transfers of non-notified materiel

Di Leva Case

Mario Di Leva, his wife Annamaria Fontana and Andrea Pardi were arrested and prosecuted by Italian authorities in connection to violations of the arms embargo on Libya between 2011 and 2015. Initial reporting from the Italian authorities indicated that the 3 were responsible for:

“Committing acts designed to provide to the provisional government in Libya……air ambulances, which are easily converted for military use, 13,900 assault rifles, Soviet made military helicopters, missiles, as well as other dual use materiel;

Introducing to the Libyan market war weapons as well as surface-to-air and anti- tank missiles, produced in Russia and in Eastern European countries…”

The negotiations for the agreements to export the materiel were carried out in “Italy, Somalia, Cote d’Ivoire, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Angola, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Armenia, Iran, South Sudan, Venezuela, Pakistan, Georgia and Egypt. The materiel did not pass through Italian territory”.

In a search of Mr. Pardi’s offices made on 12 November 2015 hand written documents detailing the following items were found:

 

  • 3 A129 Mangusta military helicopters, for a total of €6,200,000, Each helicopter is equipped with a weapon system that has a GATLING cannon and eight AGM 114 Hellfire missiles;
  • 13,950 7.62x51mm M14 rifles at the price of €2,500 each
  • 26 IMI Lynx MLRS rocket launchers at the price of €4,500,00 each
  • 100 S-8KOM rockets at the price of €85,000 each
  • 100 S-8BM rockets at the price of €59,000 each
  • 100S-8DM rockets at the price of €88,000 each
  • 100 S-OM rockets at the price of €88,000 each
  • 100 S-8PM at the price of €128,000 each
  • 12 Remote-control devices to shut off the engines of airplanes and helicopters….at the price of €5,850,000

The investigation discovered information held by an Italian company that indicated that the destination for the items listed above was the Libyan city of Misrata.

The Italian authorities have provided the Panel with a significant amount of paperwork regarding the case. The Panel is in the process of having these documents translated to facilitate its investigation into further individuals, companies, groupings and financial flows associated to the case.

Initial reporting has also indicated that the arms network may be relevant to the work of other expert groups and the translated documents will therefore be shared as appropriate.

Transfers or potential transfers of military materiel to Libya since the reinforcement of the arms embargo (August 2014)

Update on ongoing investigations

Czech rotary-wing aircraft Mi-24v attempted retransfer to Libya

The Panel had reported previously on the attempted re-transfer of Mi-24v rotary wing aircraft, sold by the Czech state-owned company LOM Praha s.p. to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to Libya. The Panel contacted the Czech authorities, who confirmed that seven Mi-24v were sold to the UAE and the export license granted in September 2015. As of May 2017, the overhauled airframes, gearboxes as well as the auxiliary power units (in April 2017) had been delivered to the UAE. After the Panel informed the Czech authorities, the delivery of the TV3-117V engines was suspended until further clarification by the UAE. The Panel is regularly following up with the Czech authorities and requested a statement from the buyer AAL Group Ltd.

Civilian cargo airplanes providing services to armed groups

Based on the Panel’s reporting on civilian cargo planes providing support to Haftar-affiliated armed groups, a Moldovan media outlet has been looking into the Moldovan air operators.  Their investigation confirmed that Griogore Ghilian is the owner of Grixona/Sky Prim Air now registered as Terra Avia SRL. His son, Valdimir Ghilan, is the co- founder of Oscar Jet next together with Malik Bilal. The latter was a shareholder in Veteran Avia, an Armenian company that figured prominently in previous Panel reports in connection with arms transfers.

According to the same article, the Moldovan authorities have initiated investigations on the activities of the air operators in Libya. The Panel will follow up with the Moldovan authorities’’.

The report also shows imagery and states that ‘‘imagery below (shown in report) shows continued development of al-Khadim airbase in eastern Libya from that previously reported.

Airstrikes

Airstrikes by Member States have continued to take place in both western and eastern Libya. Since its previous report, the Panel has received independent, corroborated reporting from multiple confidential sources that airstrikes against targets in the Oil Crescent to support the LNA’s recapture of a number of oil terminals were conducted by Egypt.

The Panel continues to investigate further airstrikes by Egypt conducted against what are reported to have been convoys attempting to move weapons from Libya into Egypt on 27 June, 23 October and 30 October 2017. To date, Egypt has not responded to Panel inquiries into the above incidents.

Further to these strikes the Egyptian Air Force conducted a number of airstrikes in and around the city of Derna in Libya after which Egypt invoked Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations in a letter to the UN Security Council. This is the only instance in which Article 51 has been invoked in this reporting period by any country in relation to Libya.

United States airstrikes have continued with further strikes on 26 September, 17 and 19 November 2017. In media reporting, the United States has repeatedly stated that its airstrikes have been in coordination with the Government of National Accord.

Special Forces

The Panel is investigating a report of United States military personnel operating within Libya in order to detain Mustafa al-Iman and remove him from the country.

While the Panel has written to the United States asking for further details, on both airstrikes and Special Forces activity this was done shortly before this report was written.

Guided artillery munitions

Following the Panel’s reporting on guided artillery munitions, the Panel received a response from the People’s Republic of China indicating that China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) has never exported GP-1 or GP-6 guided artillery projectiles to Libya. There was no information on whether projectiles with the markings shown in the report had been exported to a third country.

Subsequent to the Panel’s previous report, social media in Libya indicated the use of a GP- 1 guided artillery projectile in Warshefana.

The Panel has written to the People’s Republic of China requesting details as to the end user of the exported item.

Explosive materiel seized by the LNA

The case of the vessel El-Mukhtar has confirmed the Panel’s previous reporting on regular weapons transfers from Misrata to the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC). The Panel has received footage of LNA specialized units defusing IEDs in Benghazi and surrounding areas. Part of that footage shows the seizure in early 2017 of large boxes wrapped with multiple layers of plastic foil on board a vessel sailing from Misrata. The boxes seized contained explosives including detonating cords and still featured stickers of the manufacturing company.

The same detonating cord is featured on the website of the company. In reply to the Panel’s inquiries, the Turkish authorities declared that the company had no records of exports to Libya between the dates 1 March 2011 and 4 October 2017.

Continued risk of diversion and weapon losses

Loss of notified materiel

The Panel is aware of the loss of two assault rifles, two pistols and associated ammunition by UNSMIL on 28 June 2017. The loss has been notified to the Committee. Further to this the Panel is investigating the possible loss of materiel by a Member State which was intended for diplomatic protection. Given the previous loss of notified materiel by the European Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM), the Panel is concerned that insufficient measures are being put in place to secure notified materiel during import and once in the country.

UNSMIL further experienced difficulties in deploying the United Nations Guard Unit (UNGU) along with associated weapons to Tripoli. All of the above instances highlight the lack of control by the Government of National Accord over the major ports of import and export and their associated storage facilities even when shipments have been approved by the Committee in advance.  UNSMIL, Member States and private companies have all approached the Panel seeking clarification on the identity of the security forces units within Libya which benefit from the exception for the supply on non-lethal military equipment provided by resolution 2095 (2013) paragraph 10.

Transfers of military materiel from Libya

Over the last year, the dynamics of illicit flows of arms and related material towards neighbouring countries show a reduction of large convoys of heavy military equipment. The main exception to this rule has been the transfer of armoured infantry vehicles by Darfuri armed groups returning from Libya to Sudan.

Khalifa Haftar’s visit to Tunis

On 18 September 2017, Khalifa Haftar flew to Tunis to meet the Tunisian President, Beji Caïd Essebsi. The voyage of his security detail with considerable military equipment constitutes a serious violation of the arms embargo.

Based on the analysis of the video footage and pictures released by the LNA’s media office, the equipment transferred out of Libya includes at least:

 

  • 30 self-loading rifles
  • 2 marksman rifles
  • 2 Rocket- propelled grenade launchers (RPG)
  • Over 30 handguns (9mm)
  • One roof-mounted counter-IED system

As video footage of his visit documents, he flew on a private airplane and his security detail landed at Tunis Carthage Airport on board of an IL-76TD cargo airplane. The Panel is seeking to receive more details from the Tunisian authorities to deepen its investigation.

Haftar flew from eastern Libya to Tunis on a board of a private F900 jet with the tail number P4-RMA. The Falcon jet plane is owned by a UAE-based company called Sonnig International Group Ltd, and operated by Golden Eagle Trading FZE based in Dubai but registered in the Caribbean Netherlands.

Transfers through the Tunisian border

In the its last report, the Panel provided detailed information on the attack conducted on March 2016 by groups affiliated to listed entities on the Tunisian border town of Ben Guerdane. During the current reporting period, there were mostly insignificant seizures of arms and related material coming from Libya.

Transfers to Niger

Since 2015-16, the Panel has observed a shifting trend in illicit flows of weapons and ammunitions coming from Libya to Niger. According to the Nigerien authorities, convoys led by armed groups or arms traffickers hardly occurred during the past two years. Instead, blank-firing handguns, shotguns and blank-firing ammunition constantly trickle into northern Niger. In most cases these guns are transformed to fire live ammunition. As previously reported, the Panel also documented blank-firing rounds converted to live ammunition.

The demand for such weapons results from increasing insecurity related to the discovery of several goldfields in Niger’s border areas with Libya and Algeria. The main goldfield extends from north of of Bilma and Dirkou oases to Djado and the Libyan border. The second more recent goldfield runs along the Algerian north of Arlit.

Blank-firing guns and ammunition

The Panel has continued with its investigation into modified blank firing weapons transported from Libya to Niger in particular those items where a serial number has been identified.

The Turkish authorities have confirmed that the company “Retay Silah Oto Ins. Gida ve Tic Ltd” was granted a manufacturing license for the brand “Retay” and models “Baron HK” and “Falcon”.

The Turkish authorities confirmed that the company “SA-KA Av Tufekleri San.Ltd. Sti” was granted a manufacturing license for the model ‘F96” however the company declared that they do not manufacture the models “Falcon Kurtulus” and “Falcon Sport”. The Sa-Ka Pointer 96 serial number 14-2062 was sold to the company “Kurtulus Sila Sanayii” based in Beysehir/Uzumlu (Turkey) on 28 April 2014 and exported to Jordan on 29 April 2014.

Transfers to Chad

In the previous mandate, the Panel travelled twice to Chad, but could not get access to seized materiel from either the Chadian authorities or the French-led operation Barkhane. Violations of the arms embargo are to be expected around the regular movements of armed groups between Chad and Libya. There have been also regular reports of incursions of Chadian armed forces into Libyan territory.

On 18 August 2017, the Chadian opposition group “Conseil de commandement militaire pour le salut de République” (see paragraph 36) infiltrated northern Chad from southern Libya to reach Darfur with several vehicles and heavily armed. After they crossed the Chadian border they clashed with special forces, killed several men and withdrew to the Libyan border with a considerable bounty of arms and ammunitions.

Regular violations of the arms embargo also occur as a result of the mobility of armed individuals, and small armed groups exploring the gold mines located along the Libyan-Chadian border. There has, however, been no reports of major seizure on that wider border region since mid-2015.

Transfers to Sudan

Following an attack by the Sudanese Liberation Army – Minni Minnawi in Darfur in May 2017, Sudanese forces captured a number of armoured vehicles which the group had brought with it from Libya.

The Panel is working with the Panel of Experts on Sudan to identify the original source of the vehicles and how they entered Libya.

Transfers by Sea

El-Mukhtar first seizure

On 1 May 2017, European Naval Forces Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED) Operation SOPHIA inspected the vessel El-Mukhtar in international waters off the coast of Libya. The vessel had departed from the port of Misrata and was reported by the master to have been heading to Benghazi. During the inspection numerous weapons, ammunition and associated materiel were discovered and subsequently seized by EUNAVFOR as they had been transferred out of Libyan territorial waters. The majority of these items were subsequently made available for inspection by the Panel, the exception being a rocket propelled grenade launcher and a rocket propelled grenade which had been disposed of for safety reasons. Examples of the items seized are shown below.

Self-contained rocket launch systems (photo included in report)

All three of these items are reported to be products of Joint Stock Company Scientific Production Association Bazalt (JSC SPA Bazalt); however, the Russian Federation reports being unable to find further information on the basis of the markings shown. The nature of the markings match those of a separate seizure made under the Yemen sanctions regime. The Panel is investigating the potential for these items to be copies of Russian products made in a third country.

Panel research indicated that the RPO-A Shmel is manufactured by KBP Instrument Design Bureau in Russia. In response to Panel enquiries the Russian Federation has indicated that this device was one of a shipment of 1,000 items which was exported to Libya in 2007.

It is worth noting that the RPO-A Shmel is described as a rocket flamethrower and is a thermobaric weapon rather than an anti-tank munition.

The WPF 89-2 is another thermobaric weapons system. In response to the Panel’s enquiries the People’s Republic of China, where the system is manufactured, stated that “no individual Fuel- Air Explosive rocket launcher had ever been exported to Libya” but did not indicate where the system shown above had been exported to, or when’’.

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