U.S., UN, UK, EU freeze Gaddafi’s assets

March 2, 2011

The assets of Col. Moammar Gaddafi and his entourage were frozen over the weekend by the U.S., the United Nations and the U.K. as the international community isolates the Libyan regime for its violent crackdown on protesters. On Monday morning, the European Union also announced sanctions.

Along with the asset freeze, the sanctions on Libya include an arms embargo and travel bans on Gaddafi, his family and inner circle. Gaddafi, the mercurial leader of the country since 1969, has denied any crackdown, saying Tripoli is safe and stable in remarks on state television since protests began Feb. 17.
“These sanctions therefore target the Gaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Friday evening announcing his executive order on Libya. By Saturday afternoon, he said Gaddafi had “lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,” according to a White House readout of a conversation Obama had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
On Saturday night, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1970, which in addition to the asset freeze, arms embargo and travel bans, refers a war crimes case to the International Criminal Court for the violent crackdown.
Gaddafi’s family received the only UN asset freezes, but his inner circle—including the utilities secretary, the head of Gaddafi’s personal security and the military intelligence director—are included in the travel bans.
“While it cannot, by itself, end the violence and the repression, it is a vital step—a clear expression of the will of a united community of nations,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in a statement.
Libya’s ambassador to the UN, who broke with the Gaddafi government, hailed the resolution, saying it represents “a signal in order to put an end to this fascist regime which is still in existence in Tripoli.”
In accordance with the UN sanctions, the UK announced an asset freeze on the Gaddafi family on Sunday. According to media reports cited by The Wall Street Journal, that included a $16 million home belonging to Moammar Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam Gaddafi.
“I decided to implement this UN resolution in the UK as quickly as possible, before the financial markets reopened,” said George Osoborne, chancellor of the exchequer, in a statement.
Gaddafi dismissed the sanctions as invalid on Sunday, insisting his country is safe. “How is it possible that the Security Council adopts a resolution based on a media report? It is unacceptable and goes against common sense,” he told Serbian TV.
Last week, the UK stopped an attempt by Libyans to take hundreds of millions of dollars in dinars out of Britain by making it difficult for them to get or land a plane to collect the money before sanctions came into effect, a person familiar with the matter told the Journal. The attempt appeared to have been ordered through the Central Bank of Libya, this person said.
The EU announced Monday it also issued sanctions in accordance with the UN measures, but expanded the travel bans and asset freezes to others it said were responsible for repression in Libya.
However, there was some confusion over what assets are actually frozen under the EU action, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report. The language focuses on individuals, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority, and Libya’s central bank, would also be included in the asset freeze.
Libyan investment funds hold significant assets in the EU.
Switzerland froze Gaddafi’s assets last Thursday. It’s unclear what assets remain there, however, after Libya withdrew $5 billion in the last two years after a diplomatic spat during which Ghadafi called for the breakup of Switzerland on linguistic lines.
According to a 2010 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, Libya sits on $32 billion “in liquidity,” with several U.S. banks each managing as much as $500 million of it. A Treasury official told reporters that the U.S. freeze covers “substantial sums of money” but declined to estimate the amount. Prior to the Obama executive order, the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network had issued a bulletin warning financial institutions about the movement of assets out of Libya.
Another cable, called “Gaddafi Incorporated,” examined the corruption of the Gaddafi family.
(Source: Wall Street Journal