The Gaddafi clan’s opaque financial empire has been ingeniously created by virtue of a complex fragmentation of accounts and investments; A strategy designed to throw any attempt to hunt for their ill gotten wealth off balance.
“I defy anyone to prove that I have a single dinar! I only have my tent,” Muammar Gaddafi swore last week during an interview with French weekly, Journal du Dimanche.
But Muammar Gaddafi’s vehement declaration about his poor status has been met with complete indifference as institutions the world over attempt to decipher what looks like a highly complex system of concealing his ill gotten wealth.
According Hasni Abidi, director of the Study and Research Center for the Arab and Mediterranean World (CERMAM), quoted by El Watan, the Gaddafi clan’s fortune is estimated at a whopping US$ 120 billion. A figure corroborated by leaked U.S. diplomatic cables revealed by Wilkileaks.
Nonetheless, experts are treading carefully due to the fact that it is quite difficult to distinguish between Muammar Gaddafi’s personal fortunes and that of the sovereign Libyan Investment Authority.
How did he make his fortune?
Here again, Wikileaks provides some answers. Reports from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli confirm that the Gaddafi family holds substantial interests in oil, gas, telecommunications, infrastructure, hotels, media and distribution. An established clannish family model ensures that each child is at the helm of an economic sector.
Muhammad, the eldest, runs the national telecom company – Libya Telecom & Technology. The second son, Seif al-Islam, controls the oil industry via One-Nine Firm. The third son, Sa’adi, is in charge of real estate, tourism and infrastructure.
Muammar Gaddafi’s daughter, Aisha, has not been left out in the sharing of the national cake. Aisha has interests in a private clinic in Tripoli. A family monopoly that provides considerable income to the Gaddafi clan; enough for a superfluously luxurious bedouin tent!
A complex system
Financial opacity stemming from an amalgamation of Gaddafi’s personal wealth and sovereign wealth has become the bane of foreign financial institutions and governments as they try to separate the two.
And even if the money had been placed directly under the name of Muammar Gaddafi, retrieving it would have still been a gargantuan task as transcripts of Arabic names in Roman letters – like Gaddafi, Gadhafi, Kadhafi or Qadafi – allow for about 115,000 bank account codes, explains Le Figaro, a French journal.
Another difficulty involves the use of foreign intermediaries to broker financial deals. The Times, a U.K. newspaper, reveals a testimony by a financial expert who was approached by a Swiss lawyer bankrolled by the Gaddafi family to protect their fortunes.
Freezing Gaddafi’s assets?
An assets freeze cannot be done in one operation due to an ingenious system of fragmented accounts and investments undertaken by the Gaddafi clan in more than 20 countries. An assets freeze can only be done one after the other.
Following sanctions leveled against the Gaddafis, February, by the UN, the U.S. Treasury froze assets worth US$ 32 billion belonging to the Libyan regime. The EU is expected to freeze another US$ 20 billion under a new set of sanctions announced Tuesday.
Luxembourg has also announced that two separate accounts belonging to the dictatorial Libyan regime, with € 1 million, have been frozen. Just like Japan, Switzerland, Thursday, ordered a freeze on all assets in the Swiss system belonging to the Gaddafis.