Two Montreal UN employees charged in alleged conspiracy to sell weapons to Libya

Two former United Nations employees in Montreal have been charged by the RCMP for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to sell military equipment, including Chinese-made drones, to Libya in violation of sanctions. 

According to the RCMP, 61-year-old Fathi Ahmed Mhaouek, who resided in the Sainte-Catherine suburb of Montreal, has been arrested and is expected to appear in a Montreal court on Tuesday. 

“It is alleged that Mhaouek conspired to facilitate purchases of Libyan oil between prohibited entities and the People’s Republic of China contrary to the United Nations Act,” reads an RCMP statement.

His alleged accomplice, 27-year-old Mahmud Mohamed Elsuwaye, remains a fugitive with Interpol issuing a global alert to track him down. 

The RCMP say both men were employed by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency with its headquarters located in Montreal, when the alleged conspiracy occurred. 

The agency was formed in 1944 with the goal to “achieve the sustainable growth of the global civil aviation system.”

The agency has been cooperating with the RCMP on the case, confirmed Sgt. Charles Poirier, who said that it took the RCMP additional time to press charges because both men had diplomatic immunity within their functions at work, which had to be first lifted. 

“Had they not done that, we wouldn’t have been able to lay some criminal charges,” Poirier told the Montreal Gazette.

Both men have allegedly violated the UN’s sanctions against Libya. 

Investigators say they believe the scheme also involved the illegal sale of Libyan oil to China, which, according to Poirier, amounted to millions of barrels of crude oil.

“Had this deal gone through, both accused could have received millions of dollars in commission on a monthly basis from these transactions,” said Poirier. “So, pretty huge numbers. Of course it didn’t happen, it was a conspiracy. … but if it had gone through, you can see that this would have been Chinese interference in Libyan affairs and a part of it being done from Canada.”

The drones in question that they would have received from China were of “a large attack capability,” according to RCMP. 

“What these two individuals attempted … was to circumvent legislation by hiding the sellers and buyers through shell companies and effectively providing Chinese military equipment to Libya, and specifically to General Khalifa Haftar, who at the time was the head of a faction that was fighting over control for Libya,” said Poirier. 

The suspects met while working together at the civil aviation agency, noted Poirier.

“We can’t say for certain that they used their position (at work), but what we know is that they met at ICAO, that they did conspire while at ICAO, and that they had access to a vast network of connections,” he said. “They were people who had a lot of influence, obviously they were really well connected internationally.”

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