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article imageAs the dust settles in Libya, Qaddafi's secret riches may surface

By Joan Firstenberg     Oct 23, 2011 in World
Tripoli - Moammar Qaddafi was a very rich despot. Words like "staggering" and "unbelievable" are used to describe his cache. It's estimated that the dictator secretly stashed away over $200 billion, or about $30 thousand for each poor Libyan citizen.
It's believed that Moammar Qaddafi was in possession of over $200 billion in bank accounts, real estate and corporate investments around the world before he was killed. The amount comes out to about $30 thousand dollars that could have been given to every citizen in the tormented country. It is also double the amount that the West had suspected he was holding.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the new estimates of the deposed dictator's hidden cash, gold reserves and investments are "staggering" and that "No one truly appreciated the scope of it."
Because of these estimates, Qaddafi is destined to go down in history as one of the most greedy as as well as one of the most bizarre world leaders, in league with the late Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire or the late Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.
It is expected that the incredible size of Qaddafi's portfolio may create anger among Libya's 6.5 million people, about one-third of whom are poverty-stricken.
But the Daily Mail reports that uncovering the financial trail may prove very difficult since the cash has been invested under false names, holding companies and secret accounts.
And though this amount of money could likely be extremely useful to Libya's transitional government, it is not at all likely that it will get all of it. There are legal barriers created by a U.N. freeze on Libyan assets and each nation has laws that only allow seized assets to be released to the legal owner.
So far, the U.N. has approved the release of only $1.5 billion from accounts in the U.S., and the Obama administration has turned over $700 million.
Some African nations never froze Libyan accounts at all because of their loyalty to Qaddafi. Others had been fearful that freezing Libyan assets could hurt their domestic economies as bills and workers went unpaid.
For the 42 years that Qaddafi was in power, he made sure to direct any aid and investments to his family and his own tribe. But support to the rest of the country was not given. Especially shunned was the eastern area of the country that had a history of resisting his family's grip on power.
Qaddafi has an enormous cache of properties around the world. Just some of them include,
1. An estate in Englewood, New Jersey, now worth $5.5 million, bought in 1982 for $1 million
2. A $17 million mansion in Hampstead, north London, bought in 2009
3. Portman House, on London's Oxford Street, bought for $247 million in July 2009
4. 14 Cornhill, opposite the Bank of England, bought in December 2008 for $191 million
5. A 27-mile property on the Costa del Sol bought two decades ago
Investigations by American, European and Libyan authorities have now determined that Qaddafi secretly sent bus-loads of money abroad over the years, making lucrative investments in nearly every major country, including the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
He sent the money under the name of government institutions money like the Central Bank of Libya, the Libyan Investment Authority, the Libyan Foreign Bank, the Libyan National Oil Corp. and the Libya African Investment Portfolio. But the king himself and any of his family members could gain access to any of this money whenever they wanted to.
Another source of funds for Qaddafi is that Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa. Officials now believe there are accounts held by Qaddafi family members with money that had been drawn from national oil sales.
Steven Cook, a Mideast specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it was understood that Qaddafi had invested heavily in nearby African nations, since he was looking to build and lead a pan-African alliance. He says,
"But all this, of course, goes way beyond that."
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