UNHCR, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, says almost 100,000 people have fled Libya into neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia in the past week to escape a deadly anti-government uprising in Libya. Mediterranean ports are doing great business with thousands of other foreigners escaping Libya’s unrest. While thousands are getting out of the country, Mad-Dog Colonel Gaddafi is also moving something out of the country – his wealth.
Despite his vow to fight until last drop of blood and his son’s warning of rivers of blood in Libya, the dictator secretly transferred US$4.8 billion (3 billion pounds) of his personal wealth to London last week. The transfer was done with a private wealth manager in Mayfair, London last week with the help of a Switzerland-based intermediary.
The 3 billion pounds secret transfer was identified by UK Treasury is supervising the tracing of Gaddafi’s assets in Britain. The intermediary had indicated that the money was to have been used to buy stocks in London. Interestingly, London-based stockbrokers and investment managers have noted a surge of money emerging from North Africa and the Middle East during the past month.
An intelligence source claimed that the Libyan leader has over US$20 billion in wealth through his 40-years ruling the country. Britain Telegraph however reported that Gaddafi owns around 20 billion pounds alone in liquid assets, mostly in London and the UK Treasury is set to freeze them within days.
Elsewhere the Swiss government has already ordered Swiss banks to freeze any assets belonging to Colonel Gaddafi, issuing a comprehensive blocking order covering 29 people, including the dictator’s wife and children, some of his wife’s relatives and six officials of the regime. However it was believed that the Gaddafi family may have moved much of their money out of Switzerland already, thanks to a diplomatic row three years ago when the Swiss police arrested the dictator’s son, Hannibal, after claims that he had beaten his servants while staying in a Geneva hotel.
The US government has joined the bandwagon by escalating attempts to prevent the dictator from moving assets out of Libya, telling American banks to monitor closely transactions that may be linked to the crisis. The WikiLeaks website has revealed that a Libyan secretive fund in US banks holds about US$32 billion. The whistle-blower has also reported that Gaddafi’s funds in Europe are estimated to be around US$7 billion.
According to a 2010 message from the US embassy in Tripoli, obtained by WikiLeaks, Libya’s sovereign wealth fund LIA (an investment vehicle for Gaddafi and his cronies) holds $US32 billion in cash and “several American banks are each managing $US300-500 million”. In a meeting between Gene Cretz, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and Mohamed Layas, head of the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), in Tripoli in Jan 2010, the fund boss said most of the $US32 billion was “in bank deposits that will give us good long-term returns”.
Besides investments in financial institutions, the LIA had accumulated US$70 billion in assets, including substantial stakes in numerous European bluechip firms. The LIA owns 2.6% of Italian lender UniCredit (worth about US$1.3 billion), 2.01% of Italy’s biggest defense and aerospace firm, Finmeccanica (about US$105 million), and 7.5% of Juventus soccer club (worth US$17.5 million).
Colonel Gaddafi’s children were given free hand in running and plundering the country’s wealth as if it was their personal fiefdom. Muhammad, the oldest son, dominated telecommunications, another son, Muatassim, was National Security Adviser, Hannibal was influential in maritime shipping, Khamis commanded a top military unit, while daughter Aisha ran a quasi-governmental organisation. Another son, Saadi, was given the job of setting up an Export Free Trade Zone in western Libya.
In fact, Gaddafi’s children are no better than thugs with a July 2008 embassy report stating how Muatassim put pressure on the chairman of the National Oil Corporation, Shukri Ghanem, to give him US$1.2 billion in cash and oil shipments. Government funding was also used to capitalise Hannibal’s maritime transportation company (sounds familiar to Malaysian former PM Mahathir’s bailout to his son’s shipping company during 1997-98 Crisis). Heck, The Qaddafi family even paid Mariah Carey US$1 million to sing only four songs at a New Year’s Day family bash in the Caribbean.
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