Middle East

S.Africa vows to return Kadhafi assets to Libya

File - A picture taken on June 10, 2009 shows Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi during a press conference in Rome. (AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE)

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa will return assets and cash stashed by the slain Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi in the country after reaching an agreement with Tripoli, the finance ministry said on Thursday.

The two governments agreed on "the repatriation from South Africa of Libyan funds" that are thought to include diamonds and gold worth more than $1 billion.

The assets were placed in South Africa by the Libya Investment Authority, the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio and the Libya Africa Investment Company -- funds closely controlled by Kadhafi's regime.

South Africa's treasury said the assets will be returned in line with UN rules.

South African media last week reported that Libyan investigators had approached the treasury with evidence that the assets were held by four local banks and two security companies.

"The decision was informed by the fact that the government of Libya established a single body in 2012 to coordinate the repatriation of assets to Libya," the South African government said.

A letter sent by Libyan investigators said large amounts of cash from Libya's state investment funds had been uncovered in South Africa and neighbouring states.

South Africa opposed NATO's military intervention in Libya during the rebel uprising against Kadhafi's regime in 2011.

The veteran leader was captured and killed in October 2011 while he was trying to flee his hometown of Sirte.

Libyan investigators learned of state funds stashed in South Africa from Kadhafi's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, who is currently in a Libyan prison after being extradited from Mauritania.

Part of the missing money is allegedly controlled by Kadhafi's former chief of staff Bashir Saleh.

Saleh, who headed Libya's $40-billion sovereign wealth fund, is wanted in Libya for fraud and is the target of an Interpol arrest warrant under the alias Bashir al-Shrkawi.

Several high-ranking officials linked to Kadhafi's regime, including members of his family, have been linked to corruption scandals that emerged after his death.

Last month, Libya's new government adopted a law barring Kadhafi-era officials from holding government posts.

Under the law, all those who held key official posts from September 1, 1969, when Kadhafi took power, until the fall of his regime in October 2011 will be excluded from government.





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