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Libya’s $66 billion wealth fund replaces chairman amid probe

TRIPOLI: The Libyan Investment Authority said it replaced its chairman, Abdulmagid Breish, amid an investigation into his role in the government of ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Breish was asked to leave his position at the LIA amid an inquiry under Libya’s “Political Isolation law,” the LIA said in a statement. He’s being replaced by Abdurahman Benyezza, a former minister for oil and gas.

Breish, a former Arab Banking Corp. executive who had been the LIA’s chairman and interim chief executive officer for 13 months, led the sovereign wealth fund into billion-dollar lawsuits against Societe Generale SA and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. over 2008 investment losses.

The decision to replace Breish is another twist in Libya’s political transition after Gadhafi’s ouster and killing in 2011. The nation, which sits atop Africa’s largest proven reserves of conventional crude, is gripped by security issues, including kidnappings, assassinations, fights between rival militias, a self-autonomy bid in the oil-rich east and a government that has little ability to exert control.

Breish said he would appeal to the country’s Constitutional Court.

“I’m totally confident and comfortable with what I’ve done at the LIA,” he said. “I’m confident in the management and the board of the LIA to continue to progress the work that is in process.”

Under Breish, the LIA, which has assets of about $66 billion, was attempting reforms following losses during the 2008 financial crisis and corruption probes. He planned to entrust much of the LIA’s assets to external investment managers.

“The LIA is preparing itself to come back to the international fold,” he said in April. The LIA said that it planned on continuing the lawsuits against Goldman Sachs and SocGen.

Breish is the latest official to be affected by the country’s Isolation Law, which was passed in May 2013 as a way of purging the government and public agencies of officials who held senior posts under Gadhafi. Parliament Speaker Mohammad Magariaf quit his post weeks after the law was passed.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 10, 2014, on page 5.

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Summary

The Libyan Investment Authority said it replaced its chairman, Abdulmagid Breish, amid an investigation into his role in the government of ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Breish was asked to leave his position at the LIA amid an inquiry under Libya's "Political Isolation law," the LIA said in a statement.

Breish, a former Arab Banking Corp. executive who had been the LIA's chairman and interim chief executive officer for 13 months, led the sovereign wealth fund into billion-dollar lawsuits against Societe Generale SA and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. over 2008 investment losses.


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