South African government asked for help in locating Gadafy billions

Investigators believe cash, diamonds and gold have been hidden in country

South Africa’s treasury yesterday confirmed it was looking into assertions that four banks and two security companies in the country possess  assets hidden by former Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy’s  regime before he was overthrown and killed. Photograph: Reuters/Max Rossi

South Africa’s treasury yesterday confirmed it was looking into assertions that four banks and two security companies in the country possess assets hidden by former Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy’s regime before he was overthrown and killed. Photograph: Reuters/Max Rossi

Mon, Jun 3, 2013, 01:00

Investigators have sought the help of the South African government to find billions of dollars in cash, diamonds and gold they believe was hidden there by Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy and his family.

South Africa’s treasury yesterday confirmed it was looking into assertions made by a group of Libyans who claim four banks and two security companies in the country are in possession of assets hidden before Mr Gadafy’s regime was overthrown and he was killed.

“There was a group that approached treasury claiming to represent the Libyan government and we are in the process of verifying their claims about assets that are in South Africa,” said treasury spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane.

The hunt for Mr Gadafy’s billions has been going on since his regime was toppled in 2011 during the Arab Spring. Much of the wealth is believed to be in Africa.

Details of the Libyan investigators’ efforts to locate the missing assets were revealed by the Sunday Times yesterday, which published extracts of their correspondence with the African National Congress- led government.

According to the newspaper, the Libyan team first met South African president Jacob Zuma in December 2012 at his rural Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu Natal province, to talk about securing and repatriating the assets.

One of the bank accounts the investigators located was traced through cheque stubs discovered in Libya. It was registered in the name of Mr Gadafy’s uncle, Abdulhafid Ahmed el-Gaddafi, a former Libyan army general.

Since meeting Mr Zuma, the Libyans have been in contact with the South African treasury and department of justice to prevent any illegal attempts to move the assets on before they can be secured.

The official investigators are said to be convinced that part of the money is held by Mr Gadafy’s former chief of staff, Bashir Saleh, who has been spotted in South Africa a number of times over the past 15 months.

Known as “Gadafy’s banker”, Mr Saleh is on Interpol’s wanted list and is believed to be travelling between South Africa, Swaziland and Niger.