Police in Italy have reportedly found substantial amounts of Libyan and Syrian crude that were greater than some local refineries’ inventories, with sources connected with the investigation saying that crude, “should not have been there.”

One explanation, according to The Times which cited a report by La Repubblica, is that the Italian mafia may have teamed up with Islamic State to smuggle crude oil from the Middle East into Italy.

But the police have no evidence the oil came from IS, or whether it came from another non-extremist group of traffickers, because the cargoes passed through intermediaries, which helped the original senders mask their tracks.

As reported online by oilprice.com, the mafia smuggles oil into Italy by setting up shale companies abroad that act as oil exporters. They sell crude directly to gas station operators at much lower prices, and then close the shell companies. The mafia uses the scheme to avoid VAT payments and to launder money.

The logistics involve tankers rendezvousing with smaller vessels out of Turkey and Libya in the middle of the Mediterranean. The smugglers transfer the oil from the smaller vessels to the larger ones, and then return the small vessels to their country of origin while the bigger tankers set sail for the southern Italian ports.

Last month, Italian journalist Francesca Astorri reported on a propaganda e-book titled Black Flags from Rome, in which the Islamic State said support from the mafia was crucial for its penetration in Italy.

In a separate report, Newsweek noted that Islamic State’s resources are dwindling as it suffers a series of defeats on the battlefield.

It lost the northern Iraqi city of Mosul last month to a coalition force led by Baghdad and supported by the US-led coalition. It is now besieged in its de facto capital of Raqqa, losing more than half of the city in less than two months.


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