Where are Libya’s billions under Qaddafi abroad and who benefits from them?

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The release by Belgium of the frozen Libyan funds interest has provided more confirmations about the presence of a real threat to Libyan funds frozen abroad, either from the host countries or by the Libyan Investment Corporation, the entity that manages the assets.

The Libya’s sovereign wealth fund said five EU countries paid out money from frozen accounts in Europe that once belonged to Muammar Qaddafi despite international sanctions, according to POLITICO.

Questions about mystery payments from the Libyan dictator’s supposedly frozen billions in Europe have already become a hot political issue in Belgium, because significant sums flowed out of accounts in Brussels.

The LIA said in an emailed statement to POLITICO, according to the first article, that Belgium’s government was not alone in taking advantage of a loophole by paying out the interest earned on the frozen money.

“In many jurisdictions (the UK, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg for example) the interest and dividends on holdings frozen under the UN sanctions are not frozen,” the LIA said through its London-based PR agency Maitland.

However, Libyan Investment Authority told AL Arabiya English that the Politico article is being corrected.

A statement from the authority said that the LIA statement did not state that these nations had been taking advantage of a loophole or paying out money. It clarified that: “In many jurisdictions (the UK, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg for example) the interest and dividends on holdings frozen under the UN sanctions are not frozen.” And, that “As a result, interest from Euroclear deposits in Belgium has been legally deposited in LIA bank accounts in Luxembourg, UK and Bahrain.”

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi speaks on national television from Tripoli
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi speaks on national television from Tripoli

While experts said that the statement might also sought to deflect mounting questions about why Belgium decided to unfreeze funds from accounts managed by Euroclear, a financial institution headquartered in Brussels, a spokesperson for LIA emphasised in an email to Al Arabiya English “We are not seeking to deflect questions on why Belgium decided to unfreeze funds, I would like to reassert on behalf of the LIA that, and as written in the LIA statement, “The LIA has no influence over how Belgium thinks or acts in respect of UN sanctions”. Further, “the LIA is now in the process of investigating the detail of what happened to the monies deposited in the accounts with Euroclear and shall be reporting to the relevant/applicable authorities.”

The enthusiasm shown by these countries and the exclusion of the Libyan frozen billions’ interest from the action, has raised internal fears of the possibility of losing the wealth which was left by Qaddafi after his assassination seven years ago, either by funding the armed groups in order to jeopardize the country’s stability, or by manipulating frozen balances in foreign banks.

To date, it is not clear who has received the interest of the frozen funds sent by the Belgian bank “Euroclear” to Libyan Investment Corporation accounts in Luxembourg and Britain, though the entity admitted that the money reception, but did not provide more clarifications.

Despite the fact that more than $ 1 billion of frozen interest was transferred between the years 2011 to October 2017 to the accounts of the Libyan Investment Corporation, Ali Al-Shamikh, one of the executives who worked for the Foundation in 2016 and 2017, denied in a statement to Al Arabiya English any knowledge, adding that he had seen the reports in the media, which raises more question.

But, LIA said that “this individual (Ali Al-Shamikh ) is not, nor has he ever been, an executive of the LIA."

“With no doubts, this issue has become a matter of public opinion and national security,” said Abdel Salam Nassia , member of the Libyan parliament’s Finance Committee. “It is inconceivable that there is an investigation and questioning in Belgium of Libyan funds, while the owner of this money is silent, especially as there is suspicion of misconduct in treating these funds.”

“We do not want to know how these funds were released, but we want to know who has spent the money,” he said. “The Libyan Investment Corporation’s statements and actions do not amount to the level and importance of the case. It does not help to argue that it was done in the era of previous administrations, “calling on the Attorney General investigate in order to track the fortunes that belong to all Libyans.

Although these funds were frozen under a UN resolution, recent indications suggest that some parties still benefit from the financial empire left by Qaddafi’s governments. These funds have also begun to initiate the greed of some host countries, such as Britain which has been seeking since some time to issue a law to use frozen Libyan assets in its banks, to compensate the victims of the Irish army, which was supported by Colonel Qaddafi’s regime in the 1980s.

In order to ensure that Libya’s wealth is preserved, the Libyan economist and founder of the Libyan stock market, Sulayman al-Shahoumi, called for “an international review of Libyan accounts frozen abroad by the United Nations, and making them available to the public, especially that the controversial statements from the Libyan Investment Corporation, which is in charge of managing these stocks, make them questionable.

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