Azzurra leaves Tripoli Harbour at last
A Maltese-chartered ship has at last been allowed to leave Tripoli Harbour, three weeks since it was detained on contraband claims.
The detention of the MV Azzurra was raised by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi when he spoke by telephone with Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib. Foreign Minister Tonio Borg also discussed the issue with the Libyan authorities on Sunday evening during a visit to Tripoli.
The contraband claims were made by Libyan tycoon Jalal Husni Bey.
In a letter dated March 28 – sent to several Libyan ministers and top commerce and Customs officials – Mr Bey claimed the MV Azzurra was being used to smuggle goods to and from Libya.
The charges were vehemently denied by the shipping agent.
In the letter which sparked the incident, multi-millionaire Mr Bey alleged that cars "loaded with goods and with Maltese registration plates leave the ship and enter the country without any control... then drive around Tripoli freely and distribute their goods to traders and markets".
It went on to claim that Maltese traders were selling goods "not even suitable for human consumption" and said Malta was renowned for "committing fraud in this respect".
The allegations were rubbished by the shipping agent.
He said a Libyan Customs official was present at all stages as the MV Azzurra arrived and left Tripoli and that his crew were not even allowed to disembark upon arrival.
"How are my men supposed to smuggle goods and open shops in Tripoli if they're not even allowed off the ship?
Three Maltese members of the ship's international crew arrived back in Malta last week. Another two are still on board the ship.