The scramble for Gaddafi’s cash stash

2013-08-25 14:01

The hunt for Gaddafi’s billions gets weirder.

South African and Libyan arms dealers and intelligence operatives believe that former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi stashed an astronomical $12.5?billion (R128?billion) in a warehouse near Joburg’s OR Tambo International Airport weeks before his death.

A team of operatives – who claim to act on behalf of the State Security Agency (SSA) – have, with their Libyan associates, spent the past year trying to track the money.

In the process, they have questioned customs officials, spoken to the SA Reserve Bank and arms manufacturer Denel managers, and also met with Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Now a tale of two opposing teams, both trying to beat each other in the race to the money, has emerged.

One of the operatives, Frans Richards, told City Press that the money does exist. He also said he acted on authority from the SSA director-general, who wanted to know where the stash was.

The scramble for the purported fortune centres on what seems to be a waybill or shipment ticket that indicates that 125 pallets of money entered South Africa a day after Christmas in 2010. The document states that each pallet contained $100?million.

Intelligence operatives were told that the money was flown from Tripoli on order of Gaddafi’s banker at the time, Bashir Saleh.

The SA Revenue Service (SARS), under which customs fall, confirmed a “number of approaches” by Richards.

SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay said Richards was, however, unable to provide proper credentials and that documents he provided were fictitious and clear forgeries.

Lackay added that no such import was ever recorded on the SARS system.

Richards insisted that he was tasked to investigate “from the very top” and acted as a consultant for the SSA.

He said he had reported to the agency that he was convinced the money had entered South Africa, but would not elaborate further.

The search for the unconfirmed fortune is the latest chapter in the mad scramble for Gaddafi’s hidden assets. Some experts calculate that he could have siphoned off as much as $100?billion in gold, diamonds, cash and properties during his 42 years of rule.

Allegations of forged documents, falsified Interpol warrants and individuals and groups trying to steal the loot have emerged during this tussle.

National Treasury announced in June that about $1?billion of Libyan assets have been recovered in South Africa and would be returned to that country.

Businessman Jackie Mphafudi and the ANC’s security head Tito Maleka were apparently instrumental in recovering the assets. Maleka has since been expelled by the ANC and it is not known if his dismissal is connected to the recovery of the money.

The group to which Richards belongs claimed to have a mandate from the former president of Libya’s General National Congress, Mohamed al-Magariaf, and Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

One of their members, Middle Eastern arms dealer Erik Goaied, said in an email that the other team was trying to “steal that money with many false documents”.

The other Libyan team presented letters from the Libyan ministers of finance and justice in which they asked the South African government to help recover the Gaddafi assets.

In their letters, they warn that “certain unauthorised persons and companies are trying to move the funds illegally”.

The defence ministry, the SA Reserve Bank, SSA and the Libyan embassy in Pretoria didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

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