Gaddafi-IRA victims’ shock after Treasury ‘loses’ almost £1bn from frozen Libyan assets

A leading campaigner for victims of Libyan-IRA terrorism has reacted with scepticism after almost £1bn was ‘lost’ from Gaddafi-linked assets frozen in the UK.

By Philip Bradfield
Thursday, 19th December 2019, 6:30 am
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 6:42 pm
Then Prime Minister Tony Blair meeting Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi at his desert base outside Sirte south of Tripoli in 2007. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Then Prime Minister Tony Blair meeting Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi at his desert base outside Sirte south of Tripoli in 2007. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The Treasury said the figure had since been corrected but added that it was too early to give assurances on what the true valuation is, prompting further scepticism.

The shock came at the end of a year in which government eventually relented in the face of pressure from MPs and revealed that it had privately taken £17m in tax from the £12bn assets – all the while telling victims they could not tap the assets for compensation. Also this year, The Treasury did not challenge claims from Lord Empey that it had ‘probably’ released some of the assets to family and aides of former Libyan leader Col Gaddafi.

Victims are seeking damages from Libya in relation to Semtex supplied to the IRA by Gaddafi. His assets around the world were frozen by UN sanction in 2011.

The loss of £840m from the UK assets’ valuation came to light in a report from Middle East news site, The National.

It said the Treasury blamed an “incorrect amount” filed by an unidentified company for the blunder. The National added that the difference was only obliquely referred to in a footnote of an annual report by the UK’s sanctions-monitoring body. Legal sources working on sanctions-related cases told the site: “It’s pretty concerning that they can’t get the figures right in the first place. Is it a cock-up or conspiracy? If it’s a cock-up it needs to be rectified because it’s rather a large one.”

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 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. The government has great words of sympathy but has done nothing for us over ten years, while US German and French victims were all compensated”.