Frozen Libyan assets ‘released to Gaddafi’s family – but not IRA victims’

Victims of Gaddafi-IRA terrorism will be “extremely angry” to learn that government has probably released some of his £12bn fortune frozen in the UK to his family and/or aides while refusing to compensate them or help them secure damages, it is claimed.

Friday, 8th February 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 11th February 2019, 10:06 am
Terrified men, women and children flee the IRAs 1987 Poppy Day bomb in Enniskillen, which used Semtex supplied by former Libyan dictator Col Gaddafi

Lord Empey also said that UK victims of Libya-IRA Semtex attacks will be angered to find that, as he believes, government has been creaming tax off the £12bn, while challenging repeated attempts by him to tap it for victims’ compensation via a parliamentary bill.

Former Libyan dictator Col Gaddafi supplied the IRA with 120 tonnes of weaponry, including Semtex, and victims of subsequent IRA bombings are seeking damages.

The peer was speaking after reading a letter from the Treasury to the NI Affairs Committee, seen by the News Letter. In it Economic Secretary John Glen addressed questions raised by MPs after a similar Gaddafi scandal was uncovered in Belgium.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

An IRA Booby trap explosion in 1992. The under car device used semtex explosive provided by Libya. Photo: Pacemaker

In the letter, HM Treasury confirmed it issued 15 licences for frozen Libyan assets “to make funds or economic resources available to designated persons for specific purposes between April 2-17 and March 2018”.

It added: “HM Treasury does not, however, comment on licence applications made by individuals or entities.”

It said that the assets “include cash, properties and securities” and that they “continue to belong to the individuals and entities” listed in EU freezing regulations.

Regarding any taxation received by HM Treasury, it said the duty of confidentiality means it is “unable to disclose details of tax information about individuals or businesses”.

But Lord Empey said he found the letter “evasive to say the least” and he read into it “quite clearly that taxes probably had been received by the government. I think that is fairly obvious in it”.

The people who were granted the money may well be taking advantage of EU regulations that allow frozen funds to be partly released if a humanitarian reason is given, he said.

“If I was one of the victims reading this I would be extremely angry that clearly the needs and the concerns and the privacy of the owner of these assets takes precedence over the needs and concerns of the people who suffered.”

He added: “There is little doubt reading reading between the lines of that letter that some former military people, who could well have been torturers, or members of the Gaddafi family, may well have benefited from the release of some of these assets.”

The peer noted that the letter said the Treasury was “unable to disclose any details of tax paid” and that “a tax liability will arise regardless of the assets’ frozen status”.

And he concluded that the letter did not deny that taxes had been collected on the assets, but that since they have appreciated from £9.5bn to £12bn it is “inconceivable that it has grown to that extent without some tax liability”.

Canary Wharf IRA Semtex bomb survivor Jonathan Ganesh said: “This is a dirty can of worms. One minute they tell us that we can’t touch Gaddafi’s money and then the next minute we find out they have been taking it themselves.”

Chair of the NI Affairs Committee, Dr Andrew Murrison, said he has now written back to the Treasury to seek clarification and invite the minister to give evidence to the committee.

“I want to know the overall sum the Treasury has received since it will be of interest to victims claiming compensation for Gaddafi-related terrorism,” he told the News Letter.

A Treasury spokesman did not challenge any of Lord Empey’s claims.

“When assets are frozen, there is no lawful way in which we can seize them or change their ownership,” he told the News Letter.

“In accordance with international law, the assets belong to the sanctioned individual or entity, and sanctions can only be lifted by the EU or UN. The government wishes to see a just solution for all victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism, and takes this issue extremely seriously.”

In June 1972 Colonel Gaddafi announced on Libyan Radio: “We support the revolutionaries of Ireland, who oppose Britain and who are motivated by nationalism and religion… There are arms and there is support for the revolutionaries of Ireland... We have decided to create a problem for Britain and to drive a thorn in her side so as to make life difficult...She will pay dearly.”

From the early 1970s through to the 1990s the Gaddafi regime provided many tonnes of arms and ammunition, millions of dollars in finances, military training, and explosives to the IRA. Shipments in the mid-1980s contained somewhere between 2.75 and 10 tonnes of Semtex—a highly powerful, malleable and virtually undetectable plastic explosive.

The supply greatly enhanced the Provisional IRA’s bombing campaign from the late 1980s. A few examples were;-

:: In 1987 a bomb using Semtex killed 11 people during a Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Enniskillen.

:: In 1992 a 45kg bomb using Semtex detonated outside the Baltic Exchange in the City of London, killing three people and injuring more than 90 others.

:: In 1993 a bomb containing Semtex was detonated in Warrington, resulting in the death of two children, Tim Parry and Jonathan Ball.

:: In 1996 the Provisional IRA broke its ceasefire when it detonated a bomb in the Docklands area of London, killing two people and injuring around 100.

The former Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Jack Straw, told MPs taking evidence on Libya’s IRA links recently: “In the 1980s and 1990s, Libya was probably the most serious state sponsor of terrorism in the world”.

As victims campaigner William Frazer put it: “They created one of the most ruthless terrorist machines around the world”.

The same lawyers who successfully took a civil action against the dissident republicans behind the Omagh bomb have named 152 victims on a writ, seeking damages from Libya. The so-called Real IRA claimed 29 lives in that attack in 1998 in Northern Ireland.

Under US State Department Guidelines for compensation paid out to US victims of Libyan sponsored terrorism, UK victims are seeking $10m per wrongful death and $3m per individual who suffered injuries from Libya.

The writ takes into account 14 major IRA bombs using Libya supplied Semtex attacks as well as individual car bombs.

Libya has already paid out similar levels of compensation to French, German and American victims of terror attacks it sponsored.

Campaigners on behalf of UK victims note that many still suffer serious physical and mental injuries and have suffered great loss of earnings, finding it especially difficult to live as they grow older.

After an exhaustive inquiry, in 2015 the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster said that successive UK governments had badly let down Libya-IRA victims and failed to act on their behalf in seeking damages from the north African state.

It recommended that the government press Libya urgently for restitution, and even give victims a bridging loan to ease their hardships. However critics say the government has since taken no significant action.