Gadafy family may have billions in secret accounts


THE GADAFY family could have billions of dollars of funds hidden away in secret bank accounts in Dubai, southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf, much of it likely to have come from Libya’s vast oil revenues, according to analysis by leading Middle East experts.

Prof Tim Niblock, a specialist in Middle Eastern politics at the University of Exeter, England, has identified a “gap” of several billion dollars a year between the amount Libya makes from its oil reserves and government spending – a shortfall he expects has contributed greatly to the wealth of Col Muammar Gadafy and his nine children.

“It is very, very difficult to work out with any degree of certainty just how much they have because the ruling elite hides it in all sorts of places,” Prof Niblock said, “but at the very least it would be several billion dollars, and it could be a lot higher.” Alistair Newton, senior political analyst at Nomura, the Japanese bank, agreed it was difficult to establish the extent of the Gadafys’ wealth, but said he “would be surprised if it didn’t run into billions”.

Where the Gadafys have hidden their vast funds is anybody’s guess, although Prof Niblock expected most of it was “in bank accounts and liquid assets in Dubai, the Gulf and southeast Asia” rather than in countries such as the UK, where the Libyan state has invested in property and in companies such as Pearson Group.

In addition to squirrelling away much of their income, the Gadafys have spent fortunes over the years “propping up” various African regimes, with Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe widely acknowledged to be among the biggest recipients, Prof Niblock said.

In the 1990s, Col Gadafy is thought to have given money to the Zaghawan tribe in Darfur “and I suspect some of them are among the African mercenaries fighting the civilians in Libya”, Prof Niblock added.

Libya’s growth has enabled the country to build up myriad investments overseas. The state is thought to have invested close to £61.8 billion (€73 billion) across the globe. The family’s investments in the UK include an eight-bedroom home in Hampstead, north London, which Saif al-Islam Gadafy, the Libyan leader’s second son, bought in 2009 for £10 million.

Most of the state’s investments are made by the Libyan Investment Authority, a so-called sovereign wealth fund set up in 2006 to spend the country’s oil money, which has an estimated $70 billion (€51.2 billion) of assets.

The Libyan leader famously enjoys a warm personal relationship with Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and partly as a result has recently brokered at least two direct investment projects in Italy.

Experts say if Col Gadafy is overthrown, the investments made by Libya’s various state funds would probably be unaffected.

It is thought likely a new regime in Libya could look to freeze the assets of the Gadafy family, as the new government in Egypt did with the assets of Hosni Mubarak and his family. – (Guardian service)