Libya has billions in US banks – cable

2011-02-25 08:44

Washington - Libya holds billions of dollars in US bank accounts, according to a confidential US diplomatic cable, which casts light on the global span of the country's oil wealth.

According to a 2010 message from the US embassy in Tripoli, obtained by WikiLeaks, Libya's sovereign wealth fund holds $32bn in cash and "several American banks are each managing $300-500m."

The revelations were made by the fund's boss Mohamed Layas who said most of the $32bn was "in bank deposits that will give us good long-term returns".

As international anger grows over Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown on protesters, some of those assets abroad could be transformed into targets for international sanctions, if tied to the regime.

While US officials have not specified what steps could be taken against Libya, Washington has recently frozen assets held by Iranian, Zimbabwean and Belorussian officials over rights abuses.

"We have a wide range of tools," said State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley on Thursday, noting financial sanctions were one option.

"There are actions that are being teed up within our government."

In a sign of how plugged into the US financial system Libya has become, Layas said the country had lost money during the collapse of Lehman Brothers and were approached by now convicted swindlers Bernard Madoff and Allen Stanford for investment.

Layas added that the government-controlled fund's "primary investments are in London, in banking and residential and commercial real estate".

Read more on:    muammar gaddafi  |  us  |  libya  |  north africa  |  uprisings  |  libya protests
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