A Maltese vessel chartering company charged with exporting two Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats to Libya in breach of EU sanctions has insisted everything was above board and said it looks forward to clearing its name in court.
Sovereign Charters Ltd, its owner James Fenech and four employees were recently charged by the anti-terrorism police for exporting two RHIBs to Libya back in June 2019 without receiving permission by the Maltese authorities.
The vessels were allegedly going to be used as a contingency plan to evacuate workers of an unnamed UAE company out of Libya in the eventuality that the situation in the North African country escalates.
Superintendent George Cremona said the police are also investigating alleged money laundering
However, a spokesperson for Sovereign Charters Ltd has insisted the two vessels had left Malta carrying all the necessary permits from Malta Customs and the Police Immigration Unit.
“In June 2019 we were approached by a very reputable and globally-known company operating in the UAE to charter two of our vessels for 90 days,” it said. “The vessels were contracted on a purely ‘bare boat’ charter basis. This means that no crew was used and to be used solely and exclusively for evacuation purposes.”
“Although the chartering agreement with the client was for 90 days, the situation in Libya had escalated rapidly and within a few days of their delivery the client decided to use the vessels to evacuate the personnel immediately.”
“Upon arrival in Malta, all 21 of the client’s evacuated management and personnel – mostly holding British, French, American, Australian and South African passports – were admitted according to all applicable Maltese laws and procedures.”
“Shortly after their arrival, the management and personnel were allowed to fly out of Malta and return to their respective countries and families, again in full accordance with all applicable Maltese laws and procedures.”
“We flatly and categorically deny all the allegations that this charter was in any way connected to money laundering or military purposes. We shall look forward to clear our names and our company’s under oath in court.”
“These are the facts. Had we been asked, we would have been happy to disclose this information before to the media. Unfortunately, we were not.”
Photo left: James Fenech, Photo right: A US Navy RHIB (Photo: Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey)