The Crime of the Century: The theft of the Libyan sovereign funds
by Manlio Dinucci *
The objective of the war in Libya is not just oil, whose reserves (estimated at 60 billion barrels) are the most important in Africa and whose extraction costs are among the lowest in the world. Not so little also, natural gas, whose reserves are estimated at about 1.5 trillion cubic metres. In the crosshairs of "volunteers" of operation "unified protector" are also the sovereign funds, the wealth, the Libyan capital that the state invested abroad.
Sovereign funds managed by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) are estimated at 70 billion U.S. dollars, soaring to more than 150 when including foreign investment of the Central Bank and other bodies. And they could be even more important. Although lower than that of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, Libyan sovereign funds are characterized by their rapid growth.
When the LIA was founded in 2006, it had 40 billion dollars. In just five years, it had invested in more than one hundred companies: North African, Asian, European, American and South American, holding companies, banks, real estate, industry, oil companies and others.
In Italy, the main Libyan investments were made in UniCredit Banca (LIA and that the Libyan Central Bank owns 7.5%) in the Finmeccanica (2%) and ENI (1%): These investments and others (including 7 5% at Juventus Football Club) have a less economic significance (amounting to about 4 billion U.S. dollars) than political.
Libya, after Washington had removed it from their list of "rogue" countries, tried to reestablish a place in the international arena by relying on "diplomacy of sovereign funds." When the United States and the European Union abolished the embargo of 2004, and the big oil companies returned to the country, Tripoli could have a trade surplus of around 30 billion dollars per year largely due to foreign investments.
The management of sovereign funds, in the hands of ministers and senior officials, however, created a new mechanism of power and corruption that probably escaped from Gaddafi's own control - as confirmed by the fact that in 2009 he proposed that the 30 billion dollars of oil dividends were to go "directly to the Libyan people." This has exacerbated the internal divisions within the Libyan government.
In in these fractures the dominant ruling circles supported ordinary Americans and Europeans who, before attacking Libya militarily to take possession of its energy wealth, appropriated the Libyan sovereign funds. This operation was favored by the representative of the Libyan Investment Authority, Mohamed Layas.
As shown in a diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks, on January 20th, Layas informed the U.S. Ambassador in Tripoli that the LIA had deposited 32 billion dollars in U.S. banks. Five weeks later, on February 28th, the U.S. Treasury "froze" them.
According to official statements, this is "the largest sum of money ever blocked in the United States, which Washington holds "in trust for the future of Libya." It will serve, in fact, as an injection of capital into the U.S. economy, more and more in debt. A few days later, the European Union "froze" around 45 billion euros of Libyan funds [NR].
The robbery of Libyan funds will have a particularly strong impact in Africa. On this continent, the Libyan Arab African Investment Company made investments in over 25 countries, including 22 in sub-Saharan Africa, planning to increase them over the next five years, particularly in mining, manufacturing, tourism and telecommunications.
The Libyan investments were instrumental in the realization of the first Rascom telecommunications satellite (Regional African Satellite Communications Organization), which was placed into orbit in August 2010, allowing African countries to begin to become independent of the American and the European satellite networks, thus realizing an annual savings of hundreds of millions of dollars.
.Even more important were the Libyan investments in the realization of three financial institutions launched by the African Union, the African Investment Bank, whose headquarters are in Tripoli, the African Monetary Fund, based in Yaoundé (Cameroon), the African Central Bank, located in Abuja (Nigeria).
The development of these organisms would allow African countries to escape the control of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, both instruments of neo-colonial domination, and should mark the end of the CFA franc, the currency that 14 ex-colonies are required to use . The freezing of Libyan soverign funds deal a very hard blow to the entire project. The weapons used by the "volunteers" are not only those of the operation "unified protector."
[NR] Portuguese Banco Commercial in Madeira froze an offshore account of a 14 million euros of the LAP, which is a subsidiary of Libya Africa Investment Portfolio, which in turn is a subsidiary of the LIA.
* Geographer and geo-politologist
Translated from the Portuguese version by: