A powerful Westminster committee has demanded the Foreign Office explain claims that £12bn of frozen UK assets owned by Col Gaddafi have been secretly ‘leaking’ huge interest payments.
MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee made the demand as they pressed Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt on what the government is doing to secure compensation for victims of Libya-IRA bomb attacks.
The use of Gaddafi-supplied Semtex in IRA attacks led to catastrophic human suffering, and many victims are simply unable to move beyond the horrors of their experiences
Semtex supplied by Libyan dictator Col Gaddafi was used by the IRA in bombings at Harrods in 1983, Enniskillen in 1987, Warrington in 1993 and London’s Docklands in 1996.
Last year the committee roasted successive governments for failing to press Libya for compensation for UK victims as US, French and German governments had done.
In a hearing on Tuesday Mr Burt and officials said they were unaware of media reports from the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) that the UK was one of five EU states to have released payments from interest on Libyan assets owned by Gaddafi but now frozen by the UN. Tens of millions of euro have reportedly been paid out from assets in Belgium, which the UN argues was illegal.
NI Affairs Committee chair Andrew Murrison said: “The use of Gaddafi-supplied Semtex in IRA attacks led to catastrophic human suffering, and many victims are simply unable to move beyond the horrors of their experiences.
“My committee is gravely disappointed in the UK’s continued failure to secure compensation for these victims. We fear they are treading water while victims continue to suffer.
“The UK must urgently commit to a timeline for providing compensation to victims, either through agreement with the Libyan authorities or through direct funding from the Treasury.”
He said that Mr Burt had agreed to explain whether the Treasury had released interest from the assets, provide a history of government policy of not pressing Libya for compensation, and detail the form of the assets.
When asked by the News Letter, the Treasury did not deny that interest had been paid from frozen UK assets.
A spokesman said: “We are committed to the implementation of international sanctions and are working closely with the EU and UN to ensure they are done effectively.”
The assets frozen in the UK are not held by the government but by financial institutions, he said.
Sanctions can only be lifted by the EU or UN, but there is no lawful way the UK could seize them, he added.