At least 20 Filipino crew members of an oil tanker have been arrested by the Libyan navy for suspected fuel smuggling, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.
The DFA said in a statement it is closely monitoring the case of the detained crewmen after their tanker was intercepted Sunday.
“The DFA instructed our embassy to closely monitor the situation and extend all necessary assistance to our (countrymen),” it said in a statement, according to GMA News.
The Philippine embassy in Libya has yet to report back, it added.
According to Libyan media, which quoted Navy spokesman Gen. Ayoub Kacem, the navy intercepted a Liberian-flagged oil tanker off Abu Kamash, 170 kilometers west of Tripoli near Tunisian waters, on allegations that fuel was being smuggled.
The tanker, belonging to a Greek company, was loaded with 6 million liters (1.5 million gallons) of contraband fuel, but its grade and original extraction location are still unknown, said Kacem.
The Filipino crewmen were transported to Tripoli to appear before the prosecutor general.
Oil smuggling to Tunisia and Malta has been a lucrative trade since Libya plunged into conflict and political chaos that ousted and killed its longtime leader Col. Moammar Kadhafi.