Police in Italy are investigating claims that Mafia organisations have teamed up with Daesh to smuggle oil into Europe.
Rome-based daily La Repubblica this week told readers detectives suspect the Islamist terror group is working with organised crime syndicates to ship contraband crude oil from parts of the Middle East and North Africa to some of Italy’s biggest oil refineries.
A February report from the Guardia di Finanza revealed that some large Italian refineries were found to be in possession of substantial quantities of oil that originated from Libya and Syria, two countries where Daesh has maintained a significant presence over recent years.
While sources close to the investigation said the oil “should not have been there”, police admit they have no evidence that links the crude with Daesh or other “non-fundamentalist traffickers”, noting that the contraband fuel would have passed through various intermediaries before arriving in Italy.
Despite having no proof to substantiate their suspicions, Italian investigators believe ships belonging to Daesh and Mafia groups may be meeting in the Mediterranean having switched their transponders off, before transferring the crude from one to the other.
Once transfers have been made, the vessels containing the illicit oil take it refineries in either Italy or France, according to police.
Mafia groups have been known to import contraband oil into Italy in the past having set up shell companies and posed as oil exporters before selling directly to petrol stations at a large discount.
Speaking with La Repubblica, experts said it was unlikely that Mafia organisations would have struck up an oil smuggling alliance with an extremist group such as Daesh, despite reports that jihadists and gangsters have teamed up previously to smuggle drugs into Europe.
Speaking with Al-Arabiya last month, Alessandro Orsini, Professor of Sociology of Terrorism and Director of International Security Observatory at LUISS University in Rome, said: “Mafia clans have no interest in establishing relations with terrorist groups for more than one reason.
“First of all, terrorists are the greatest enemy of the Italian state, and the Mafia doesn’t want the Italian police to monitor its illicit activities beyond measure.
“Second of all, an alliance between the Mafia and [Daesh] will eventually result in the end of the Mafia because then the Italian state, the international community, including the United States, would intervene to stop this phenomenon.”
Daesh derives much of its income from activities more often associated with organised crime, including drug smuggling, people trafficking and counterfeiting.
The jihadi group was said to be making up to $50 million (€42 million) a month from the sale of contraband crude oil from areas under its control in October 2015, but its ability do so has been hugely impacted by the destruction of its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria.