Canadian police charge two Libyans over conspiracy to sell Chinese-made drones in Libya

Apr 23, 2024 | International actors

On 23 April, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) charged two men in Montreal with participating in a conspiracy to sell Chinese-made drones and other military equipment in Libya, in violation of UN Sanctions in place on Libya. The Canadian spokesperson said that the alleged offenses occurred between 2018 and 2021 when Fathi Ben Ahmed Mhaouek and Mahmud Mohamed Elsuwaye Sayeh were working at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency headquartered in Montreal.

Through shell companies, the men attempted to sell Chinese military equipment to Libya, including large drones that can carry multiple missiles. The RCMP spokesperson said that alleged conspiracy would have benefited one of the two main factions in the 2019 – 2020 Tripoli Conflict – namely the Libyan National Army (LNA). He explained that the second part of this scheme was to sell Libyan oil to China at below market value prices.

The investigation began in 2022 after the RCMP received what was described as ‘credible intelligence’ but both men had diplomatic immunity due to their work with the UN. Their immunity had to be waived by ICAO before the two men could be charged. The RCMP said that there is no indication that ICAO was aware of the conspiracy. Mhaouek, a Canadian citizen of Libyan origin, was arrested on 23 April, while Sayeh, a Libyan national, has not been apprehended. An Interpol red notice and a Canadawide warrant have been issued for Sayeh’s arrest.

Canadian investigators have no indication that military equipment or crude oil ever reached their alleged final destinations – the spokesperson said that if they had, the two co-conspirators stood to gain several million dollars in commissions.