February 20 2018 — Brussels, Belgium — After Gaddafi’s death in 2011, the U.N. passed a resolution to freeze his wealth, with the idea that it would be held in trust for the Libyan people until the war-shattered country stabilizes. Four separate accounts opened for the Libyan Investment Authority and Libyan Foreign Investment Company in the Euroclear bank held about 16 billion euros when they became ‘frozen’ under UN sanctions in September 2011. Today, there remains about 5 billion euros on these accounts. So the question is rather simple: Where did the €11 billion vanish to? Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
RELATED POST: LIBYA: What is going on?
UPDATE VIII (February 9 2022) — Belgian investigating judge Michel Claise wants to question Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) chairman, Ali Mahmoud Hassan, about his role in the Euroclear case.
However, despite an international arrest warrant issued by the Belgian judge, Ali Hassan, can still count on the prime minister’s support.
That is hardly surprising…
Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dabaiba’s bond with Ali Mahmoud Hassan dates to when he first became prime minister and agreed to extend his term as governor of the LIA. In return, the sovereign wealth fund flew to the government’s aid, releasing nearly $1bn to allow it to meet its expenses pending the vote of the budget. [Africa Intelligence. (Feb. 2 2022)]
Flashback — When I started this post 4 years ago, few people believe that the story was true. Today, we know that the basic facts are correct, even if the details are murky.
But, after all these years, we still do not know who allowed these transactions in violation of UN sanctions? And why?
Is there a link to the FORTIS debacle? Once upon a time, FORTIS was one of the top financial institution in the worlds. Then, they decided to buy the Bank of Scotland. That seemed such a great idea…
Soon, they were desperate for cash. Serious investors were not exactly interested The Belgian government organized a rescue operation.
The Libyan Investment Authority had plenty of cash available and the Belgian government gladly accepted the money.
FORTIS was bought by the state and then sold to various entities. FORTIS bank became BNP PARIBAS FORTIS.
In 2005, Ahmed Abdul Salam — a cousin of Gaddafi — opened a bank account. Due to the sanctions against Libya passed in 2011, his account should have been terminated.
On February 27 2012, the US specifically demanded this account to be terminated. And yet, his bank account at BNP PARIBAS FORTIS remained active until April 2016.
By the way, the ‘rescue operation’ of FORTIS was managed by then Finance Minister Didier Reynders, a man who is known to have lied about the decision to allow the EUROCLEAR transactions in violation of UN sanctions
Without the extremely suspicious intervention of the State in the FORTIS affair, it is widely believed that the Belgian state would have gone bankrupt. Did Gaddafi’s money save the Belgian State?
END of UPDATE
February 20 2018 — In November 2013, four Euroclear Bank accounts belonging to the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and its subsidiary Libyan Foreign Investment Company (LFICO) contained some 16.1 billion euros.
Those assets have been frozen since March 2011 in accordance with the UNSC resolution 1973.
Investigating magistrate, Michel Claise, was in charge of the probe into an alleged money laundering scheme by Gaddafi’s inner circle.
When the Belgian authorities sought to seize these Libyan assets in the fall of 2017, they discovered that 10 billions euros were missing.
According to the Ministry of Finance, Belgium did not take any decision to unfreeze these assets.
So the question is rather simple: Where did the €10 billion vanish to?
UPDATE I (October 29 2018) — Belgian media are reporting that Belgian banks paid out interest and dividends on Gaddafi’s accounts frozen under U.N. sanctions.
“RTBF said that up to 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) could have been disbursed to people controlling Libyan accounts, including militia groups in the country accused of human rights abuses.” (REUTERS)
This much is about certain. When the United Nations agreed to freeze deposits held by Gaddafi’s administration abroad, Belgium did so but the Belgian banks did not halt payments of interest and dividends.
This, in itself, may actually not have been illegal. (NOTE – Nov. 4 2018 — It is now very clear to me that these payments of interest and dividends were illegal as I had actually suggested from the beginning. It is baffling that EU experts have argued otherwise.)
But in any case, if the money was used to fund terrorist groups in Libya, that is yet another major scandal.
Now, I would like to suggest that if 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) have been disbursed to people controlling Libyan accounts, then we are NOT talking “interest and dividends”.
This would clearly be money from the frozen accounts. And that would be a major violation of International Law. There is something rotten in the Kingdom of Belgium.
UPDATE II (November 04 2018) — In their final Report, the UN Panel of Experts for the Libya Sanctions Committee said Belgium’s Euroclear Bank had been in “non-compliance with the [UN-Libya] asset freeze”.
The report states that the bank had allowed for interest payments from the frozen funds of the former Gaddafi regime to be made available to bank accounts of the Libyan Investment Authority in third countries until 23 October 2017.
So, let me summarize the facts as we understand them today.
When it was discovered earlier this year that billions were missing from the ‘Gaddafi frozen fund’, Belgian Finance minister denied the allegation. Quite clearly, he did not tell the truth.
When it was confirmed that the money earned from this fund (Interest, dividends, etc..) had indeed been paid, Belgian authorities argued that, according to their own interpretation of the UN Resolution, it was not illegal because these earnings were not frozen as they had been generated after September 2011.
But, as the experts pointed out, there is no need to interpret the text of the UN Resolution because it is very clear that the earning generated by the fund are also frozen.
“The resolution 1970 (paragraph 20 ) still applies to assets that are held outside Libya frozen as of 16 September 2011, which includes earnings arising from these assets after 16 September 2011.”
Now that it is very clear that money was illegally paid from these frozen accounts, Belgian Authorities argue that other countries are doing it too!
As Christopher Hitchens once told me, “They are doing it too” should be a line for the prosecutor, never for the defence.
Facts — BNP Paribas Fortis held €43 million, while ING, KBC and Euroclear Bank held €376 million, €869 million and €12.8 billion respectively in Libyan assets. The total value of the fund has been estimated at about $35 billion in December 2010.
“The LIA’s funds are locked in at least four bank accounts managed by Euroclear. By examining copies of Euroclear statements from 2013, POLITICO found that the frozen funds invested in shares before 2011 have risen in value to €14 billion. Those stocks include holdings in big Italian companies such as the oil giant ENI, the bank Unicredit and the engineering company Finmeccanica, among others.”
What for? — The money was channeled to mystery beneficiaries behind accounts managed by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA). The payments were made between 2011 and 2017.
While it is not known how the profits were used, an expert believes there is overwhelming evidence to suggest the funds were used in arms and human trafficking crimes.
Robert Wtterwulghe, professor at UC Louvain, said:
“In this report, we realize that there is a problem of arms trafficking to feed factions.
“There is a whole market that aims to bring migrants and to engage Nigerian prostitution networks.
“It is a mafia enterprise but relies on all the militias in question – they receive external funds.”
Who made the decision? — Belgian foreign Minister Didier Reynders denies any involvement in the decision to release funds.
“It’s the responsibility of the finance ministry and I am no longer there since December 6, 2011. I have taken no decision in this areas.”
A Belgian finance minister spokesman argues that it was a question of interpretation.
“In this matter Belgium has acted in coordination with its European counterparts in the application and in accordance with guidance shared and approved by said counterparts within the RELEX group meetings.
“As has been highlighted by the UN panel of experts on Libya Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011) there is a need to clarify the interpretation.”
A spokesperson for the Council of the EU said it is not for the Council “to express a view” on how a country in the EU interprets the EU’s sanctions regime against Libya.
Actually, the UN experts concluded that the text was very clear and needs no additional explanations.
Blast from the Past — Reynders was quoted by the Belgian daily La Libre in 2011 arguing that Belgian companies should be paid their dues from contracts made with the Gaddafi regime before sanctions kicked in.
“What we have generally done on past occasions is to see what could be unblocked by the Treasury to pay Belgian companies,” he said.
UPDATE III (February 20 2019) — Until now, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders has denied any involvement in the decision to release these funds.
“It’s the responsibility of the finance ministry and I am no longer there since December 6, 2011. I have taken no decision in this areas,” Reynders stated in November 2018.
But a letter dated August 1st 2012 indicates clearly that Reynders was involved in an attempt to unfreeze the funds.
The letter also indicates the exact amounts of money held in these various frozen accounts.
Finally, the letter demonstrates that the Belgian Foreign Minister was looking for a legal trick — the ‘humanitarian cause’ — to unfreeze these accounts in order to pay some Belgian companies.
However, Belgian media reports that at least one of the companies listed in this letter was not actually seeking to be paid but wanted to reimburse Libya for an abandoned project..
UPDATE IV (January 20 2020) — According to data of the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, United States Air Force C-17 has been flying regularly to Misratah and Benina airports.
From March to June 2018, 15 C-17 flights were recorded and one more flight appears on satellite imagery.
Considering that these deliveries were illegal under International Law, one is left wondering where these weapons came from… And who paid the bill?
Do you remember the still unsolved mysteries of the billions that disappeared from Gaddafi’s — not so frozen — accounts in Brussels?
UPDATE V (February 20 2020) — So, what have we learned over the past 12 months? Short answer. Nothing.
Day after day, Belgium and Libya look a bit more alike. Neither country is able to form a government. In both countries, gang leaders and militia strong men want to partition the land. Keep asking yourself: How did we get here?
Back to Gaddafi’s missing money — Despite irrefutable evidence that he lied about the affair and personally organized the violation of the UN Resolution and European directives regarding the frozen assets of the late Gaddafi, Didier Reynders currently serves as European Commissioner for Justice, where he is tasked with enforcing the respect of European laws. Who needs political satires?
Former Belgian intelligence agent Nicolas Ullens was tasked with gathering evidence on whether Reynders — who previously served as Belgian finance minister — benefited from the construction of a new Belgian embassy in Kinshasa, a botched arms deal with Kazakhstan and the release of 2 billion euros of frozen funds to Libya. His accusations were quickly dismissed by the Justice Department.
By the way, do not be too hard on the poor Belgians. Last year, it was reported that almost £1bn was ‘lost’ from Gaddafi-linked assets frozen in the UK.
But here also, it appears to be a big misunderstanding…
The UK Treasury blames an “incorrect amount” filed by an unidentified company for the “blunder”. (I hate when it happens!)
A Treasury spokesman told the News Letter: “To say this money was ‘lost’ is misleading – this is down to a figure being submitted in one year that has since been revised. So no funds or assets were ever actually lost.”
But asked what actions it had taken to ensure the alleged loss of £840m was incorrect, the Treasury was unable to give a definitive answer.
A spokesman said the department which ensures UN sanctions are properly enforced “identified the discrepancy and are now investigating”.
He added: “While they can’t comment further while it’s ongoing, they will obviously take the appropriate action depending on the outcome”.
Lord Empey, who has been campaigning for compensation for the [IRA] victims, responded: “I hear what the Treasury says, but it’s still a massive amount of discrepancy.
Given the government’s handling of this issue over a 20 year period, they cannot expect people to react with anything other than scepticism.”
Jonathan Ganesh, President of the Docklands Victim Association, said: “It is very sad that £1bn had apparently gone missing.
Yet, international legal experts do not have kind words for these scandals.
“I think that the problem is that there is no true rule of international law,” said Kovalik, commenting on the Belgian case.
“The way the world works is the more powerful countries get what they want by force or other ways.”
Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, echoed Kovalik’s concerns by saying that Washington and NATO member states “have been stealing Libyan assets and oil anywhere and wherever they can since they murdered Gaddafi”.
According to him, “law has nothing to do with it except for being window-dressing for their thievery”.
“The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada and the other NATO states have destroyed Libya as a state, inflicted outright genocide against the Libyans, have stolen their oil, and are now in the process of looting Libyan assets all over the world,” the professor highlighted.
Franco Rizzuto, professor of European Law at Edge Hill University, UK, condemned Belgium’s misconduct related to Gaddafi’s frozen assets, presuming that “it was a case of a mistake or incompetence in the Belgian Ministry of Finance” since a EU member state “cannot unilaterally decide to opt out of UN-authorized and EU-implemented asset freezes”.
Mistakes, negligence and incompetence are words often heard whenever one comments on the Kingdom of Belgium.
UPDATE VI (March 12 2020) — On Friday March 6 2020, the offices of the Belgian States Security were raided by the Police.
Simultaneously, the offices of the Belgian Intelligence Committee — which has oversight power over the Intelligence Agencies — were also searched by the Police.
Previously, on February 26 2020, the Foreign Affairs Ministry offices were also raided and the current minister — Philippe Goffin — was questioned by judge Michel Claise.
These searches are part of an investigation initiated by the complaint of Nicolas Ullens de Schooten — a former intelligence officer — who discovered suspicious financial practices in the cabinet of the former Foreign Minister Didier Reynders.
The investigation appears to focus on the Kazakhgate scandal and the Gaddafi “frozen” Belgian accounts. Police searches of the intelligence agency offices are extremely rare.
RELATED POST: KAZAKHGATE — An Easy Primer [UPDATE JUNE 17 2017]
We knew that, between 2012 and 2017, large amount of money disappeared from these funds as Belgium illegally considered that the “interests” generated by these accounts were not frozen under the UN resolution.
Today, we have an exact number: € 2.086 billions evaporated from these accounts and it is not known where this money went. And this is probably just the tip of the iceberg…
UPDATE VII (February 20 2021) — LIA and Belgian government clash over frozen assets
This story gets better and better… Just last week, a dispute has broken out between Libya’s sovereign wealth fund and the Belgian government over assets frozen in Brussels.
The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) opposes a plan by the Belgian government to ask the United Nations to allow a partial unfreezing of the fund’s assets held in Belgian banks.
According to the LIA, the request is being made on behalf of the Global Sustainable Development Trust (GSDT), an entity linked to Prince Laurent, the brother of the Belgian king.
For some years the GSDT has been trying to reclaim money that it says it is owed as a result of a failed reforestation scheme signed with the late dictator Muammar Gadaffi in 2008.
According to Belgian media, finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem told a parliamentary committee in late 2020 that he had no objection to such a move and that he had instructed the Foreign Ministry to start a notification process at the UN.
The LIA is independent from the Libyan state and it was never in a contractual relationship with the GSDT or Prince Laurent.
It is therefore very puzzling — to say the least — that the Belgium government considers the LIA liable for a claim made by the King’s brother against the Libyan government.
END of UPDATES
BELGIUM — €10bn Missing From Gaddafi Frozen Accounts
BELGIUM — €10bn Missing From Gaddafi Frozen Accounts [UPDATE II : Money Used to Fund Terrorist Groups]
BELGIUM — €10bn Missing From Gaddafi Frozen Accounts [UPDATE III : Belgian FM Lied to Libyan Authorities]
One Year Ago — BELGIUM : €10bn Missing From Gaddafi Frozen Accounts
BELGIUM : €10bn Missing From Gaddafi Frozen Accounts [UPDATE : Foreign Affairs, Intel Committee & State Security Offices Raided by Police]
Three Years Ago — BELGIUM : €10bn Missing From Gaddafi Frozen Accounts [UPDATE : LIA and Belgian government clash over frozen assets]
BELGIUM : €10bn Missing From Gaddafi Frozen Accounts [UPDATE : Did Gaddafi’s money save the Belgian State?]