Wednesday 24 January 2018

Rebels to receive Gaddafi billions that were frozen in Britain

James Kirkup

BRITAIN is preparing to hand over £12bn (€13.5bn) in Libyan assets to the country's new rulers, including up to £1bn (€1.13bn) in bank notes.

Whitehall officials carried out an audit of Libyan state holdings in Britain, and found that the Gaddafi regime's British assets include a large stock of Libyan dinars in cash.

The precise value of the notes is unclear because of uncertainties about the dinar's exchange rate. But at the start of the NATO action, British officials put the value at around £1bn.

Britain hopes to transfer the cash and other assets to the National Transitional Council as soon as next week, if a United Nations Security Council resolution is passed.

The rebels have appealed for access to Gaddafi-era assets, saying they urgently need money to pay officials' salaries and ensure the Libyan state continues to function.

The cash in British hands would be particularly useful, officials believe. The UK government finds itself holding Libyan cash because the money was printed in Britain but had not been transferred to Libya when the UN froze the country's assets earlier this year.

That freeze, estimated to have affected as much as £68bn worldwide, can only be fully reversed by UN resolution.

Diplomats hope that resolution can be agreed next week, though South Africa, a member of the Security Council, still appears reluctant to accept the NTC as the legitimate Libyan government.

Jacob Zuma, the South African president, insisted yesterday that the African Union would not recognise the organisation while fighting continued in the war-ravaged country.

Some $1.5bn (€1bn) has been released to the rebels, but the NTC says it urgently needs at least $5bn (€3.44bn) to prevent the collapse of the state.

Mahmud Jibril, the NTC's prime minister-in-waiting, said: "The frozen assets must be released for the success of the new government to be established after the Gaddafi regime."

He also suggested that without more cash, the NTC would struggle to secure Tripoli and collect many of the weapons handed out by the old regime.

Irish Independent

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