Revealed: Where Libya invests $53bn

  • 26 May 2011
  • From the section Business
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Libyan banknotes
It is unclear what will happen to the assets

The location of $53bn (£33bn) of Libyan state assets has been uncovered by the leaking of an internal management document of the Libyan Investment Authority.

The document, leaked to the campaigning group Global Witness, discloses that on 30 June last year $293m of Libyan state money was on deposit in various HSBC accounts and a further $275m was in an HSBC hedge fund, $110m had been invested in private equity funds managed by Royal Bank of Scotland, and $182m was in Goldman Sachs accounts and funds.

The French bank Societe General received $1.8bn of Libyan Investment Authority money in three funds.

All the assets have now been frozen, under orders from the European Union and the United Nations - because, in the words of the British Treasury, "Gaddafi and his family exercise considerable control over the Libyan state and its enterprises". One of these enterprises deemed to be controlled by Muammar Gaddafi is the Libyan Investment Authority.

All the banks refused to make any public comment on the funds they received and managed on behalf of the Libyan Investment Authority, citing client confidentiality. They said that the fact that the Libyan Investment Authority no longer had the right to access the money was irrelevant.

"Our lawyers tell us we can say nothing about this", a spokesman for one of the banks said.

Charmian Gooch, director of Global Witness, said: "It is completely absurd that HSBC and Goldman Sachs can hide behind customer confidentiality in a case like this. These are state accounts, so the customer is effectively the Libyan people and these banks are withholding vital information from them".

'Locked down'

A banker said: "Our clients would not like it if we started to confirm or deny what funds we hold on behalf of individuals or entities on a selective basis".

When it was put to him that the only clients who might be concerned would be dictators of other countries, fearful that their assets could one day be seized and expropriated, the banker said that was not relevant.

Another banker said however that the Libyan Investment Authority assets held by his organisations were completely "locked down".

He added: "there is nothing we can do with them at all until we get direction from the (US) government, and we have no idea when that will be".

The banker said it was impossible to be sure what would ultimately happen to the assets. "It depends on the outcome of the conflict in Libya" he said.

Most of the Libyan Investment Authority assets are in Libyan or Arab financial institutions. There is $14.2bn, €2.9bn and £1.7bn on deposit with the Central Bank of Libya, $356m in various currencies deposited with Arab Banking Corporation, and $178m with the British Arab Commercial Bank.

It is unclear whether any of the deposits held in the Arab Banking Corporation and the British Arab Commercial Bank are sitting in their London arms.

The Libyan Investment Authority internal report also discloses that $500m was invested in a bond portfolio managed by the Japanese bank Nomura, and a further $500m was in bonds managed by Bank of New York.

The US hedge fund Och-Ziff received $300m from the Libyan Investment Authority to manage.

Global Witness wants all banks to be forced to make public disclosures of assets they hold on behalf of states, to make it harder for corrupt dictators to silt away some or all of these assets for their personal benefit.

The document shows that as of last year, the Libyan Investment Authority owned huge stakes - many of them worth hundreds of millions of dollars - in some of the world's most prominent companies, including Unicredit and ENI of Italy, Siemens and RWE of Germany, Rusal of Russia, General Electric of the US, and BP and Vodafone of the UK.