Britain foils plan to export 1 bn pounds in Libyan banknotes

Monday, February 28, 2011

LONDON - British authorities have foiled an attempt to send out nearly one billion pounds worth of Libyan banknotes back to Tripoli, a media report said Monday.

It was revealed Sunday that an attempt was made last week to move 900 million pounds of uncirculated notes held in a secure storage facility in Britain back into Libya, the Independent reported.

Managers at the facility contacted the Treasury and devised a plan to stall the export - which would have been legal at that stage - until a wider ban could be put in place.

They feared the money could be used to pay mercenaries - known to be operating in Libya - to continue the regime’s campaign of violence against protesters, according to the newspaper.

At first the Libyan representatives were told it would take four or five days to find an aircraft prepared to fly the money back to Tripoli.

They then offered to send their own aircraft to pick the money up. Managers at the facility agreed and told them to fly to an airfield in Manston in Kent.

However, the notes were being held in the North-east - which would have required several hours of travelling time and several vehicles to collect the cash.

The stalling tactics worked and Sunday the notes were impounded along with an estimated 20 billion pounds worth of other assets directly or indirectly controlled by the Gaddafi regime.

Following sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council on Libya, the British government Sunday moved to freeze the assets held by the Libyan regime in the country.

In a statement the Treasury said that all assets controlled by Gaddafi, his four sons and one daughter would be covered by the freeze. In addition, anyone with suspicion that funds could belong to the named beneficiaries is also covered.

This means, in practice, all the assets held by the Libyan Investment Authority, which has offices in London, will be impounded.

The assets also include money held in bank accounts, some commercial property and a 10 million pounds mansion in London, the newspaper said.

Last week it was reported that Gaddafi has deposited three billion pounds with one of Mayfair’s private wealth managers in a bid to protect his family’s fortunes.

A Swiss-based intermediary brokered the deal after previously approaching a stockbroking firm five weeks ago with a view to depositing funds.

However, when that stockbroker discovered the ultimate identity of the source of the funds, it advised the intermediary to take his business elsewhere.

In a statement, Chancellor George Osborne said: “I have today (Monday) taken action to freeze the assets in the UK of Colonel Gaddafi and his family or those acting on their behalf so that they cannot be used against the interests of the Libyan people.”

He added that: “This is a strong message for the Libyan regime that violence against its own people is not acceptable.”

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