Libya claims Saadi Gaddafi's London mansion

A multi-million pound London mansion that belonged to one of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's sons is due to be handed over to Libya's transitional authorities.

The house - in one of London's most exclusive areas - was owned by Saadi Gaddafi, the ousted leader's footballer son.

Saadi Gaddafi, who escaped to Niger - one of Africa's poorest nations - after his father was toppled, is in the process of officially losing his property in one of London's richest areas.

The interior design of this property is modern and slick with luxuries such as a sauna, an indoor jacuzzi and a pool room.

The brown suede-lined home cinema walls were encrusted with crystals, and there are spotlights everywhere. The sparkle was there, but the bling was not.

This house has been the subject of news interest for more than a year, and has now been home to squatters longer than it has been to Saadi or any of his family members.

There have also been mounting electrical, mould and flooding problems.

Mohamed Shabaan, the legal representative of Libya's new authorities in the UK, told the BBC that the house had structural problems when it was bought, and that construction workers upped and left half way through their work when Saadi presumably failed to pay them during the uprising in Libya.

The basement has since flooded, and although that has been cleaned up, it has left behind a vile stench of rotting carpets coming from the indoor cinema.

Mr Shabaan says the deeds of the house are expected to be in the hands of Libya's new authorities in two to three weeks.

Earlier this month, a high court judge in London ruled that the estate had been "wrongfully and unlawfully purchased" using Libyan state funds.

One neighbour told the BBC that he had seen two of the late dictator's sons at the estate, but only on three occasions.

When they did make an appearance, it was no secret. They would arrive in limousines with blacked-out windows and a large entourage of friends and bodyguards, according to the neighbour.

Haunted by the past

But who would want to live here now?

Jeremy Karpel, the director of estate agents TK International, who have an office in Hampstead, feels that the identity of the previous owner would not necessarily deter potential buyers.

"It's not dripping with gilt everywhere, with bling and gold, which used be the way forward," he says.

"It's actually quite an understated house, it's proper home - it's not a palace by any means! A banker could go for this, as well as a mini-oligarch, as well as an Arab sheikh."

We are told the house is likely to go on sale and has been valued at up to $16m (£10m).

Six young Libyan men are currently living in the mansion - four asylum seekers and two students.

They are no longer described as squatters, but as the "guardians" of the house until their government officially claims it back.

They describe much of their time spent there as "difficult".

Muftah, one of the asylum seekers, says they all make sure someone is always in the house, because they are afraid of someone taking it over.

They say they have had to fend off attacks on the house by supporters of the former regime. They also claim that they have been offered large sums of money by dubious characters and groups of various nationalities on condition that they all leave the place. It's unclear why.

Muftah says they won't. "We will leave when the house goes back to the Libyan people…," he says.

Assets galore

It is believed there are unrecovered and undiscovered Gaddafi family assets worth billions of dollars scattered around the world, including the UK.

They are believed to have bank accounts and shares in bonds and investments in the UK and other countries.

Tracing these assets has been an uphill struggle, because they are either bought by offshore companies or registered under someone else's name.

"These assets are really difficult to find and also difficult to claim back," Libya's deputy ambassador to London, Ahmed Gebreel, says.

"We are working with private firms, with some individuals, and are also seeking assistance and cooperation from other governments."

On Thursday, the Italian authorities seized more than $1.45bn worth of assets from the Gaddafi family.

The recent ruling by the High Court in London on Saadi's controversial property is seen as a landmark case in asset recovery.

It is the first of its kind since the Arab Spring and it could set a precedent for similar cases in the future.

Much like his other siblings, Saadi firmly stood by his father's regime as the conflict unfolded.

Any assets belonging to him, his brothers and sister, or former regime confidants are firmly considered by many Libyans as state-owned property that should be returned.

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