$1.5B of Gaddafi’s assets seized by Italian government

Italy on Wednesday seized more than $1.5 billion of assets controlled by the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s family including stakes in top companies, land and a Harley Davidson.

The seizure by tax police officers followed a request by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is seeking the extradition from Libya of Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam on charges of crimes against humanity.

The police “seized today fixed and moveable assets, company stock and bank accounts connected to the family of ex-Libyan leader (Muammar) Gaddafi’s and to his entourage,” a police statement said, listing the value of the assets.

Among the assets held by Libyan sovereign wealth funds was a 1.256-percent stake in the nation’s largest bank UniCredit worth 611 million euros and a 0.58-percent stake in oil major ENI, the top foreign energy producer in Libya.

Under Gaddafi, Libya briefly held the biggest single stake in UniCredit.

There was also a 2.0-percent stake of Italian aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica worth 40 million euros and a 0.33-percent stake in carmaker Fiat and truck maker Fiat Industrial worth an estimated 53 million euros.

Police said they further confiscated stock in serie A football club Juventus where one of Gaddafi’s sons — football-mad Saadi who is now hiding in Niger — used to be on the board and an apartment in one of Rome’s most exclusive areas.

The seizures included 150 hectares of forest on Pantelleria, a picturesque Italian island halfway between Sicily and the Tunisian coast where the Libyan strongman was rumoured to be planning to build a holiday village.

A rogatory commission at the ICC requested the assets be seized in the context of its investigation into Gaddafi’s son and his former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi, also a brother-in-law to the fallen Libyan strongman.

The legal framework for the seizures also includes European Union rulings.

The assets — a business empire built up by Gaddafi starting in the 1970s — had already been frozen in the wake of the start of the Libyan rebellion last year and police said it took time to work out the exact owners of the funds.

Gaddafi and former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi signed a “friendship treaty” in 2008 which led to a sharp rise in investments between the two countries, while Italy also undertook to pay compensation for colonial times.

The new leadership in Libya appears to be distinctly cooler towards the country’s former colonial master and has refused to revive the friendship treaty, signing only a new pact in January called the “Tripoli Declaration.”

(Source: The National Post)

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