Libya Seeking Qaddafi Assets Abroad: Mathiason & Serle

Libya acts to seize £10m Gaddafi house in London

by Nick Mathiason and Jack Serle of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism

The Gaddafis spent four decades plundering Libya amassing private jets, fast cars and expensive properties the world over.

But next Friday could see what international corruption experts claim is the first repatriation of a major asset owned by the deposed Libyan rulers.

On Friday, at the High Court in London, the State of Libya will attempt to seize from Saadi Gaddafi, the playboy son of the dead dictator, 7 Winnington Close, a Hampstead Garden Suburb mansion in a quiet cul-de-sac worth in excess of £10m.

The neo-Georgian, eight bedroom home complete with indoor swimming pool and private cinema was bought by the 38-year-old, high-living ex-footballer just six months before the start of the Arab spring. Glentree, the estate agent which sold the property to Saadi said he made the decision to buy the house after a “quicker than normal” viewing.

Saadi, who is living in Niger, owns 7 Winnington Close through Capitana Seas Ltd, a British Virgin Island (BVI) company. It is understood that Capitana’s lawyers will not defend the application for repatriation which could mean the house reverts to Libya on Friday.

But Saadi’s legal representative, Nick Kaufman, a lawyer based in Jerusalem, said: “This is an issue of which my client and I am fully aware. My client is at present considering the legal options open to him to tackle this meritless claim.”

Easy to launder cash in the west
Libyan investigators say they were unable to establish Saadi as the owner of 7 Winnington Close until the British Treasury’s intervention. Treasury officials directly contacted authorities in the BVI, which is famous for protecting the identities of the ultimate beneficiaries of companies based there, who were forced to comply.

The lawyer hired by the Libyan embassy to handle the groundbreaking case is Mohamed Shaban. He stated he has had to establish that Saadi could not have bought the property on his official military wage of £34,000 as commander of Unit 48 in the Libyan Ministry of Defence.

“It would be imposible for him to make £10m in cash,” Shaban said.

“This is hugely significant,” said Robert Palmer, an anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness. “It looks as if it’s the first asset recovery case related to the Arab spring in London. It is a very complicated process requiring a significant degree of co-operation to identify an asset that is suspected of corruption and then take a case through the courts.”

More London assets on investigators’ radar
Shaban stated there are several other properties he is tracking in London which could form the next phase of investigations. And a senior asset recovery expert at a global institution stated that London’s network of private banks, desirable properties and luxury shopping made it a prime location for corrupt politicians and their families.

Earlier this week James Ibori, a former governor of one of Nigeria’s oil-producing states, pleaded guilty in at Southward crown court to 10 counts of money-laundering and conspiracy to defraud. British police accuse him of stealing £160m over eight years.

Senior asset recovery specialists suggest the process of repatriating money, property and other investments from fallen Arab dictators has been slow. So far the sum total of assets returned to Arab spring countries amounts to two planes that belonged to Tunisia’s former president Ben Ali and his brother in law. Estimates suggest that the Gaddafi family made off with cash and investments worth billions of dollars. But it is hard, they say, to separate state assets from those of the family and their cronies.

A leading London-based investigators involved in the repatriation of assets associated with the former Mubarak regime said: “These people have been in power for years and it will take years to unravel. We have seen in recent cases how they use corrupt lawyers and accountants (to move money).”

The investigator pointed to the case of Sani Abacha, the kleptocratic former president of Nigeria who in the mid-nineties is estimated to have siphoned as much as $5bn from the oil-rich country he ruled for five years. “We are still finding Abacha money 14 years after he died.”

It is said that Egyptian investigators have sent out “blanket requests” for stolen assets which have overwhelmed banks. A lack of co-ordination between newly established agencies has seen needless duplication of requests.

There are also reports of tensions and mutual mistrust between western banks and the Libyan central bank which is leading attempts to trace Gaddafi’s assets.

——
From The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Responses | Print |

7 Responses

  1. Any chance anyone will look for the billions missing in Iraq and Afghanistan? Probably not. After being sworn in Obama said “I’m not looking back”, at which time GW Bush, Cheney, Doug Feith, the CIA and the entire Iraq War group breathed a collective sigh of relief.

    • Any chance anyone will look for the billions missing in Iraq and Afghanistan?

      Any chance we have a conversation about Libya? That’d be nice.

  2. Gaddafi Jr. acquired the mansion ‘just six months before the start of the Arab spring’

    That would have been while McCain, Sarko, Berlusconi, Cameron, Goldman Sachs, and the IMF were all still doing business with Gaddafi Sr., and shortly before the IMF wrote this:

    ‘An IMF mission visited Libya during October 17–28, 2010 … The mission would like to thank the authorities for their excellent cooperation and hospitality.
    ‘… The macroeconomic environment is strong, underpinned by large fiscal and ex-ternal positions and continued efforts to modernize and diversify the economy.’
    link to imf.org

  3. Eastern Libya To Declare Itself An Autonomous State

    Civil war could be on the horizon again in Libya.

    A report from British intelligence company Exclusive Analysis states:

    • Eastern Libya is about to declare itself a self-governing state within a federal Libya. The new state will extend beyond historical Cyrenaica to include part of oil-rich Fazzan in the Gulf of Sirte. Eastern Libya has 66% of Libya’s oil production but only 25% of its population.

    • The state is to be called ‘Barqa’ (Arabic for Cyrenaica) and its territory will stretch from the Egyptian border in the east to the city of Sirte in the west. The declaration will stipulate that Barqa will have its own parliament and separate oil, defence and finance ministries, and its own Army. (A so-called ‘Barqa Army’ has already been formed out of former eastern-based units of Gaddafi’s Army and eastern militias.)

    • The Tripoli government is likely to use force to contest the eastern Libya’s declaration of autonomy. It does not have the capability to reverse the declaration but is likely to contest control of key towns in the Gulf of Sirte and the Waha and Raquba oil fields.

    • Barqa’s autonomy would increase contract and non-payment risks in construction and infrastructure, but probably not in the oil sector, particularly for firms with contracts with Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO).

    • Contract risks are especially high for Chinese, Russian and South Korean firms, due to their governments’ perceived support for Gaddafi. Firms from these countries are very likely to see their contracts cancelled following corruption investigations.

    link to businessinsider.com

    • I don’t know much about this British intelligence company, but if the reference to the “oil-rich Fazzan in the Gulf of Sirte” really came from Exclusive Analysis (rather than some confused journalist) it doesn’t speak well for their intelligence, let alone their analytic skills. The Fezzan (a.k.a. Fazzan or Fizzan) is a region in southwestern Libya, far from the Cyrenaica (Barqa) and nowhere near the Gulf of Sirte. The Fezzan is not noted for its oil resources.

      As to the reliability of their other assertions, who knows?

  4. Isn’t that the place that anarchists squatted a year ago in solidarity with the Libyan Revolution? I’m pretty sure. A bunch of us London activists were all very enthusiastic at first, when we thought it was Muamar’s place, about the idea of running down to check out the wardrobe (“hey we can reconstruct the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band!”) then we learned it was Saadi’s with his stupid track suits. Anyway by then the original occupiers were only letting anti-government Libyans in.

Comments are closed.