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Case of Libyan funds frozen in Belgium: UN investigates in Brussels

Case of Libyan funds frozen in Belgium: UN investigates in Brussels

 

A UN Security Council delegation arrived in Brussels in mid-May to investigate the Libyan funds frozen at Euroclear Bank, which are at the center of a judicial investigation for money laundering opened at the Brussels public prosecutor's office.

"Fake news", had launched Didier Reynders to describe the information that Vif / L'Express published on March 8, according to which 10 billion Libyan funds, frozen by the UN in Belgium, had disappeared without explanation. Foreign Minister MR, who refused to answer our questions before the article was published, did not hesitate to draw on the Trumpian repertoire. We were just a few weeks away from Belgium's conquest of a seat on the UN Security Council and this info fell badly for the Michel government ...

But now the "fake news" interest the United Nations today. The case of Libyan billions mysteriously "evaporated" went back to New York, in the ears of the UN sanctions committee, which ensures that the freeze on Libyan assets, decided in 2011, is respected. And who dispatched, in mid-May, in Brussels, a delegation of three experts, led by Lipika Roy Choudhury, known in New Delhi for his skills in the financial field. She was accompanied by two assistants, the British David McFarland (weapons expert) and the Spanish Luis de Albuquerque (expert in shipping).

The three delegates paid a visit to Alexandre De Geest, general administrator of the Treasury (SPF Finances), a lawyer for a former non-profit association of Prince Laurent in dispute with the Libyan state, and approached a magistrate of the Brussels public prosecutor's office. where a money laundering investigation is opened on these Libyan funds. The UN trio is also interested in the interest and dividends generated by the frozen Libyan capital - about 300 million euros per year - which were released by Euroclear at the request of its direct clients, the financial institutions HSBC Securities Services (Luxembourg ) and Arab Banking Corporation (Bahrain), themselves acting on behalf of their own clients: the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) sovereign wealth fund and its subsidiary, the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company (Lafico). It's

Tripoli trip canceled

At the end of May, shortly after this UN visit, Africa Intelligence , the specialist intelligence letter, announced that Didier Reynders was planning to visit Tripoli on June 20 to meet Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, with whom he was to discuss the frozen funds. at Euroclear. The Vif / L'Express has learned with good source that this trip, organized by Pierre-Emmanuel Brusselmans, adviser of Reynders to Foreign Affairs, was canceled following the revelation of Africa Intelligence . A trip that was meant to be very discreet: last week, Didier Reynders was not announced absent on June 20 in Parliament, in the grid of ministers excused ...

 

Seven years ago, just after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, the UN decided to freeze Libyan assets around the world. In Belgium, this represented 14 billion euros, of which 12.8 - in the form of securities and cash - in four accounts in Brussels, Euroclear Bank, one of the largest "safes" on the planet . These billions belong to the LIA and the Lafico. In autumn 2017, the Brussels magistrate Michel Claise decided to seize these funds. An investigation had begun after the complaint for "laundering" and "breach of trust" of the ex-GSB vanishers of Prince Laurent, to whom Libya owes 48 million euros in damages following a break in contract ( Le Vif / L'Express of March 15 last). Despite a final judgment favorable to GSDT, Libyans still balk to pay.

Not only did Euroclear Bank oppose the seizure, under a controversial law of 1999, but in its declaration of "garnishee" to the judge, it would have mentioned that the presence of five billion euros on the four accounts of the LIA and Lafico. At the Vif / L'Express, then in an official statement, the prosecutor confirmed last March, to know only a little less than five billion on these accounts at Euroclear. Where did the other ten billion go? Volatilized? In March, after the accusation of "fake news" Reynders, the Minister of Finance, Johan Van Overtveldt (N-VA), had, he said in a tweet that there was still 14 billion on the Libyan accounts of Euroclear . But neither of the two ministers

New internal Euroclear Bank documents Le Vif / L'Express has obtained indicate that the four frozen accounts opened for the LIA and Lafico posted a total of 14.9 billion euros on 18 February 2015 in retail, 11.7 billion shares and bonds and 3.2 billion in cash. We already knew that in November 2013, fifteen months earlier, the total amount was 16.1 billion. The difference between the two totals (1.2 billion) can be explained by changes in securities and currencies, but also by the fact that the interest and dividends generated by these frozen assets were released by Euroclear.

Opacity on interests

In which hands did these unblocked interests land? Did the Treasury check that they did not return to former relatives of Gaddafi? These are probably the questions that UN delegates also ask themselves. Recently questioned in Parliament about this, Van Overtveldt has entrenched himself behind the EU regulation translating the UN measures into European law, according to which the FPS Finance can only provide information to the European Commission. This lack of transparency is all the more important because Belgium's interpretation of this regulation on the question of the thaw of interest and dividends is not at all the same as that of other states hosting frozen Libyan funds, in particular the British Treasury.

This is an enigma to solve for the UN delegation, which will also clarify another mystery size. The Vif / L'Express survey had identified a fifth account opened at Euroclear for the benefit of the LIA. This is an account created by the Arab Banking Corporation (ABC) under an agreement signed on July 7, 2008 with the Libyan holding company. This account number 40988 houses shares of the Italian companies Eni, Finmeccanica and UniCredit belonging to the LIA. In September 2012, he held shares in the UniCredit banking group worth 398 million euros. Oddly enough, this account has never been frozen by Euroclear in application of UN sanctions ...

News  Link in French. Le Vif

 

 

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