By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Washington -- Moammar Kadafi secretly salted away more than $200 billion in bank accounts, real estate and corporate investments around the world before he was killed, about $30,000 for every Libyan citizen and double the amount that Western governments previously had suspected, according to senior Libyan officials.
The new estimates of the deposed dictator's hidden cash, gold reserves and investments are "staggering," one person who has studied detailed records of the asset search said Friday. "No one truly appreciated the scope of it."
If the values prove accurate, Kadafi will go down in history as one of the most rapacious as well as one of the most bizarre world leaders, on a scale with the late Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire or the late Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.
Kadafi's death after he was captured Thursday outside his birthplace, the coa
stal town of Surt, not only all but ended the armed uprising that erupted in February. Revelation of the stunning size of the portfolio may stir anger among Libya's 6.5 million people — about one-third of whom live in poverty.
Though Kadafi's foreign investments would seem to offer a bonanza for the transitional government, it is struggling to reclaim the money because of legal barriers created by a U.N. freeze on Libyan assets and national laws designed to ensure seized assets are only released to the legal owner.
U.S. and European authorities said Friday that they intended to quickly hand over frozen assets to the transitional Libyan government. But so far, the U.N. has authorized release of only $1.5 billion from accounts in the U.S., and the Obama administration has turned over $700 million of that amount, said Marti Adams, a Treasury Department spokeswoman.
Some African nations were reluctant to freeze Libyan accounts at all because of their loyalty to Kadafi. Others feared that freezing Libyan assets could hurt their domestic economies as bills and workers went unpaid.
During his 42 years in power, Kadafi steered aid and investment to benefit his own family and tribe, but denied support for much of the country, especially the eastern region that historically resisted his family's despotic grip on power.
Obama administration officials were stunned last spring when they found $37 billion in Libyan regime accounts and investments in the United States, and they quickly froze the assets before Kadafi or his aides could move them.
Governments in France, Italy, England and Germany seized control of another $30 billion or so. Investigators estimated that Kadafi had stashed perhaps another $30 billion elsewhere in the world, for a total of about $100 billion.
But subsequent investigations by American, European and Libyan authorities determined that Kadafi secretly sent tens of billions more abroad over the years and made sometimes lucrative investments in nearly every major country, including much of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, officials said Friday.
Most of the money was under the name of government institutions such as the Central Bank of Libya, the Libyan Investment Authority, the Libyan Foreign Bank, the Libyan National Oil Corp. and the Libya African Investment Portfolio. But investigators said Kadafi and his family members could access any of the money if they chose to.
The new $200 billion figure is about double the prewar annual economic output of Libya, which has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa.
Officials of the transitional government point to the secret transfer of so much wealth as proof that Kadafi, who once gave himself the title "King of Kings," had imperial ambitions for himself but little concern for most Libyans.
Kadafi was sending vast sums abroad "at a time when Libyans were struggling for the money they needed for schools, hospitals and all sorts of infrastructure," said one person close to the council, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are ongoing.
Investigators believe Kadafi's foreign investments accelerated in recent years. Almost all the assets and accounts found in the United States were from the last four or five years, after Kadafi surrendered a nascent nuclear weapons program and moved toward restoring full diplomatic relations with Washington.
In addition to the vast foreign investments, Kadafi is believed to have amassed billions of dollars in gold reserves inside Libya, possibly for use in case his rule was threatened. Western authorities believe Kadafi and his aides secretly maneuvered to bring some of the cash back to Tripoli to help pay for their war effort.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told an NBC interviewer Thursday that rebel forces had worried that Kadafi could still "be recruiting mercenaries, paying with the gold they believe he had absconded with."
Western officials have struggled all year not only to identify Kadafi's money but also to convince countries such as India, China and Russia to seize Libyan investments as required by a U.N. Security Council resolution.
Investigations last spring found Libyan regime investments in several high-profile Western ventures, including the Italian soccer club Juventus, the Italian bank UniCredit and the British publisher Pearson, which owns the Financial Times newspaper.
Officials now believe other assets include accounts held by Kadafi family members with money drawn from national oil sales.
Steven Cook, a Mideast specialist at the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations, said it was known that Kadafi had invested heavily in nearby African nations, since he sought to build and lead a pan-African alliance.
"But all this, of course, goes way beyond that," Cook said.
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Posted on Friday, 14 October 2011 10:40
Probe Libya's Fire Sale
For sale: One oil-rich North African state, sixth largest reserves in the world, spectacular Mediterranean views and good transport links to Italy. One careful but eccentric owner. Price on application.
Like used-car dealers, the traders of na- tional assets are not big on transparency. For the past 42 years, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has hired some of the wiliest operators to hawk Libya's oil and gas licences around the salons of Europe and Asia's hyper-economies. Those billions of dollars in payments were rapidly banked offshore. Only a small proportion of that revenue was ever reinvested in Libya's ailing economy, schools and clinics. The grinding poverty and oppression in Cyrenaica fired up the rebellion in its early months.
More is emerging about the Gaddafi family's mafia grip on the country's finances and the activities of its foreign accomplices. The incoming National Transitional Council (NTC) would do Africa and Europe a useful service if it hired a team of forensic auditors – available at the African Development Bank in neighbouring Tunisia – to track the assets stolen by Gaddafi Inc. and to publish the full report detailing the culpability of European and African government officials and their business associates in these criminal dealings.
Gaddafi did not lose any sleep over the shortchanging of overweight Western oil executives, and they will lose no sleep over his demise. Rather, they are hoping to profit hugely from the newly-installed NTC's need to raise money quickly. Visiting executives have informed their Libyan interlocutors that European governments' decision to carpet bomb Gaddafi's military assets has ushered in a brave new democratic world. But harassed Libyan officials do not appear very grateful; perhaps it is that sense of déjà vu.
Billions of dollars were spirited out of Libya under Gaddafi's rule and the new leadership has an unprecedented opportunity to address past wrongs and prevent them from being repeated
A decade ago, British, French and Italian traders arrived with open cheque books to welcome Gaddafi back to 'Club Europe' after he gave up his plans to develop nuclear weapons, a move he must now deeply regret when he looks at the respect accorded to Kim Jong-Il and his atomic armoury in Pyongyang. Elaborate state visits were arranged, Bedouin tents were pitched next to the Élysée Palace and covert arms deals were negotiated in five-star hotel bars.
Only Rama Yade, French president Nicolas Sarkozy's human rights minister, had the good taste to refuse to shake Gaddafi's hand. British premier Tony Blair suffered no such inhibitions; footage of his fulsome embrace of the Libyan leader is rebroadcast daily on global news channels.
It now emerges that just as some Western diplomats were persuading Gaddafi to shut down his deeply improbable nuclear weapons programme in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq, arms dealers from Britain, the US and China were helping him spend Libya's oil billions on massively overpriced arms bundles. More than half the companies exhibiting at Libya's arms show last year were British.
Even Chinese officials, with their iron-clad non-interference policy, looked shamefaced when it emerged that one of China's companies had discussed arms sales with Gaddafi's officials in July. African recipients of the Gaddafi dinar have included Uganda's Idi Amin and Yoweri Museveni (at different times), Burkina Faso's Blaise Compaoré and Liberia's Charles Taylor (to bankroll his militias that murdered their way across West Africa). Add to that those Kenyan and South African politicians paid to sing Gaddafi's praises and of course, Zimbabwe's comrade Robert Mugabe, as well as the docile officials at the African Union who played along profitably with the Colonel's super-state fantasy.
The best tribute to all those brave fighters who took on Gaddafi's guns would be the comprehensive exposure of the politicians and business people from across the globe who profited from the Libyan leader's tyranny. The aim should be to prevent a repeat performance, and the chances of doing that have never been better.
Moammar Gadhafi could have accumulated an estimated $60 billion in personal wealth at the expense of the Libyan people, according to reports by ABC News. These assets are spread around the world in bank accounts that may be difficult to identify now that he is dead.
* There are hundreds of ways to spell his name, which makes identifying all his assets and bank accounts a more complicated process.
* The U.S. froze approximately $30 billion in Libyan assets in February 2011. These funds are held inLibyan government agency trusts, not in Gadhafi's personal name.
* Canada, Austria and the United Kingdom are among the list of countries that froze Libyan assets earlier this year.
* The Netherlands froze nearly $4.5 billion in assets in February, but announced it would begin distributing portions of that money to help Libyan citizens through the World Health Organization.
* Canadian banks hold more than $2.3 billion in cash for the Gadhafi family. The accounts were frozen after Gadhafi attempted to transfer the funds earlier this year.
* The Australian government is investigating whether millions of dollars were invested by Gadhafi's sons into Australian oil projects in the past nine years.
* The UK frozen nearly $1.7 billion in bank accounts, property holdings and bonds held in the name of Gadhafi, his daughters and other family members.
* The family owns extensive non-cash holdings in other African countries, such as Zimbabwe, Chad, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
* The Libyan Investment Authority has $3.8 billion in American banks invested in the name of the Libyan people. An additional $30 billion in government assets held in the U.S. has been frozen since the start of the uprising.
* The government of Malta has frozen an indeterminate amount of assets belonging to Gadhafi's daughter - many invested in communication companies.
* Nearly $1.8 billion was invested in Austrian banks and has been frozen since early 2011.
* Switzerland froze nearly $700 million in Gadhafi's personal assets after a diplomatic confrontation, according to a report by Scribd. Gadhafi had kept nearly $6 billion in cash in Swiss banks prior to the diplomatic breakdown.
Dan McGinnis is a freelance writer, published author and former newspaper publisher. He has been a candidate, campaign manager and press secretary for state and local political campaigns for more than 30 years.