May 24, 2024
Quebec man charged with conspiracy linked to illegal sale of Chinese drones to Libya | CBC News

Quebec man charged with conspiracy linked to illegal sale of Chinese drones to Libya | CBC News

Two former employees of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal have been charged with conspiracy for facilitating the illegal sale of Chinese drones and military equipment destined for Libya, according to an RCMP investigation.  

Fathi Ben Ahmed Mhaouek, 61, who is from Sainte-Catherine, Que., is expected to appear at the Montreal courthouse Tuesday afternoon. He was arrested at his residence Tuesday morning, RCMP Sgt. Charles Poirier confirmed. 

Poirier says the man’s alleged accomplice is Mahmud Mohamed Elsuwaye Sayeh, 37, a Libyan national, and is still wanted by police. Interpol has issued a red notice for his arrest. He is accused of using a scheme to conceal military equipment sellers and buyers.

Equipment involved in the scheme include drones that resemble “a small plane that can carry missiles,” as well as control and command platforms to operate the drones, Poirier said.

“This equipment is subject to UN sanctions related to Libya and therefore cannot be sold to Libya,” he said.

Chinese interference in Libya

Poirier said the current investigative theory suggests that China would have benefited from the deal by supporting the faction of Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar.

“We’re basically looking at a case of Chinese interference in Libya,” Poirier said, noting that the RCMP investigation started in 2022. “It all boils down to activities in Canada that were made to facilitate that deal.” 

As part of the conspiracy, Mhaouek allegedly “conspired to facilitate the purchases of Libyan oil between prohibited entities and the People’s Republic of China,” a news release from the RCMP published Tuesday reads.

A headshot man with brown skin and a slight beach and a blue tee shirt appears on a white background.
Mahmud Mohamed Elsuwaye Sayeh is a 37-year-old Libyan national accused of conspiring to sell Chinese drones to Libya with Fathi Ben Ahmed Mhaouek, who is from Quebec. Sayeh is wanted by Interpol. (RCMP)

“We’re talking millions of barrels [of crude oil] that would have been leaving Libya to go to China,” Poirier said. 

He added that the men “certainly met at ICAO” while they both enjoyed functional diplomatic immunity. 

ICAO said in a statement Tuesday that the accused had left the organization “a number of years ago.” Citing the ongoing investigation and judicial proceedings, the organization did not provide more details. 

Had the deal gone through, both of the accused would have received several millions of dollars in commission per month. 

They are both charged under the United Nations Act and its Regulations Implementing the United Nations Resolutions and Imposing Special Economic Measures on Libya.

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