Thursday, November 8, 2018

Oil Smuggling Alive And Well In Iraq

Oil smuggling operation to tap into a pipeline discovered (Al Maalomah)

The Iraqi press had a spate of articles in the last two months about oil smuggling going on across the country. There were five such pieces in September, and another seven in October. For every report that the authorities had discovered such an operation there were probably plenty more that were not found pointing to this illegal business being alive and well in Iraq.

Iraq’s oil industry is concentrated in the south, so one would expect smuggling to be going on there. For instance, on September 9 nine tanker trucks were captured around the Rumaila oil field in Basra by the Interior Ministry used for stealing petroleum. October 1 two smugglers were killed while trying to tape into a pipeline in Wasit, Dhi Qar. October 5 there was a raid, which netted 19 accused oil smugglers in Basra. Two days later the South Oil Police claimed it broke up a large ring operating out of Khor al-Zubayr that was stealing oil derivatives.

There are pipelines stretching across Iraq however as well as refineries, which offer more opportunities for criminals. September 12, the Interior Ministry broke up a group tapping into pipelines in Kirkuk province. September 15, the police stopped trucks in Babil with 152 barrels of motor oil that was being sold by a crime group. September 16, the security forces arrested nine people accused of attempting to illegally ship oil derivatives in Baghdad. Five days later, the Interior Ministry announced that it found two holes used to tap into an oil pipeline in northeast Baghdad. October 16, the Oil Police found an organization stealing from a pipeline in Latifiya in southern Baghdad. Finally, at the end of October, police seized a pipeline used for stealing oil in Kirkuk. This showed wide spread crime in not only oil, but its derivatives all over Iraq from Baghdad where the Dora refinery is located to Kirkuk, which has a large petroleum industry.

Sotaliraq recently had an article providing background to the current oil smuggling business. It said that 5 to 7 families ran most of the crime rings, and many were connected to political parties that provided them legal cover. In the south, oil was often smuggling out on fishing boats into the Persian Gulf.

Oil smuggling has a long history. For example, in the 1990s when Iraq was under United Nations sanctions, Saddam Hussein organized groups to illegally sell the country’s petroleum to get around the international restrictions. This would include using trucks to Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and boats going towards the Persian Gulf. After the 2003 invasion, the business expanded due to the breakdown in security, and the huge growth in corruption within the country. Fifteen years later, the practice is still alive and well as these recent articles highlight. The continued weakness in law and order and acquiescence of political parties provide plenty of incentive for this to continue.


Al Forat, “Detecting the smuggling of Kirkuk oil,” 9/12/18
- “The energy police strike a blow to the smugglers of oil derivatives,” 9/15/18
- “URGENT police station was set up to smuggle oil derivatives from the Dora refinery,” 10/16/18

Al Ghad Press, “9 tankers for smuggling oil from the strategic line in Basra captured,” 9/9/18
- “Interior Ministry announces the discovery of two drill holes for smuggling crude oil northeast Baghdad,” 9/21/18
- “A large raid on smuggling oil products in Basra and the arrest of 19 accused,” 10/5/18

Al Hurra, “Basra: the seizure of the largest oil smuggling ring,” 10/7/18

Al Maalomah, “Control oil pipelines in Kirkuk,” 10/31/18

NINA, “The killing of oil smugglers after clashes with police south Dhi Qar province,” 10/1/18

Rudaw, “Basra official denies oil smuggling racket,” 10/19/18

Sotaliraq, “Report reveals the smuggling operations of Basra oil,” 10/16/18

Al Sumaria, “Foiled an attempt to smuggle oil derivatives in Baghdad and the arrest of 9 accused of the crime,” 9/16/18

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