A powerful committee of MPs has demanded that government comes clean on whether it has been “scooping up big tax receipts” from £12bn of frozen Col Gaddafi assets in the UK.
The MPs say a small part of the alleged taxation could help hundreds of victims whose lives have been devastated by the Semtex explosive the former Libyan dictator supplied to the IRA for bomb attacks across the UK.
In a hard-hitting report published today, MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster ask why, if tax is being collected, then Government is not using it to create a reparations fund for the victims while at the same time pressing Libya for compensation.
Chair of the Committee, Dr Andrew Murrison MP, said: “My Committee is disappointed our Government has been less successful in securing compensation for UK victims of Gaddafi sponsored IRA Semtex attacks than other governments have been for their nationals.
“We now find that HMRC may have been scooping up big tax receipts from frozen Libyan assets, a small part of which could help victims pending reparations being negotiated with the Libyan government.”
The Committee’s report follows a chain of “revealing” correspondence between it and the Foreign Office, the Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs which the MPs say indicate the Government “could be levying significant amounts of tax on frozen Libyan assets in the UK”. The assets, linked to Col Gaddafi, were frozen under UN sanction in 2011.
The report says Government has committed to take a more “visibly proactive approach” to securing compensation for the victims of these attacks, however the Committee argues that “continued inaction” has led to time running out for many victims.
The MPs recommend that the Government:
* Start direct negotiations with Libya to seek a compensation deal (which it had recommended in a previous report in 2017)
* Reveal whether any tax, and if so how much, is collected on frozen Libyan assets;
* Expand the remit of the government’s newly appointed specialist adviser to ensure an active role in securing compensation
* Explain why the Government has chosen not to finance a victims’ reparations fund, if tax is being collected.
* Disclose for what, and to whom, licences to release funds were issued; It has been reported that UN sanctions do not bar Libya from collecting interest and dividends on its frozen assets.
In their first hard hitting report on the matter, in May 2017, the committee recommended Government put money into a bridging fund for victims, if a deal with Libya looked unlikely by the end of that year. The recommendation was that Libya could repay the money to the UK government later.
In 2017 the committee slammed successive UK governments, accusing them of failing frail, injured and struggling victims of Libya-IRA terrorism. At that time it noted that in sharp contrast to the UK, the US, France and Germany had all secured compensation for their citizens.
Much to victims’ dismay, however, the UK government officially rejected the recommendation and made no moves to set up a reparation fund - or say campaigners - to press Libya for compensation.
In the mid-1980s shipments from the Gaddafi regime to the IRA contained somewhere between 2.75 and 10 tonnes of Semtex—a highly powerful, malleable and virtually undetectable plastic explosive.
In 1987 an IRA bomb using Semtex killed 11 people during a Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Enniskillen. In 1992 a 45kg bomb using Semtex in the City of London, killing three people and injuring more than 90 others. In 1993 a bomb in Warrington killed two children: Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball. In 1994 the Docklands bomb in London killed two people and injured many more.
Stephen Gault, whose father was killed in the 1987 Enniskillen bomb, said Semtex victims “would be very interested to know where all the interest and tax from Gaddafi’s frozen assets in the UK are going to”.
He added: “Is the government putting it in its coffers and yet at the same time refusing to compensate victims?”
UUP peer Lord Empey, who has been campaigning for the victims, said: “If there is a revenue stream coming from these assets the very least the Government could do is use them for victims.”
Jonathan Ganesh, who was seriously injured in the 1996 London Docklands bombing, said the victims “continue to be severely let down by successive UK governments as they refuse to make a stand for their own citizens.”