War for Muammar Gaddafi's billions

2013-06-16 14:00

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Two Libyan factions claim rights over the former ruler’s treasures. Now SA must figure out who’s right

South Africa is at the centre of a billion-dollar fight between two Libyan factions over slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s hidden assets.

The one faction is accusing ANC heavyweights, including the ruling party’s head of security, of assisting an “illegitimate” group to recover a fortune in gold and cash that Gaddafi stashed in South Africa.

City Press can reveal a mad scramble has emerged for Gaddafi’s loot as a second team of Libyan investigators are heading for South Africa.

This team has already met with Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and promised to buy South African weaponry with the recovered loot.

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

The second team, which claims to have a mandate from the former president of Libya’s General National Congress, Mohammed al-Magariaf (who resigned two weeks ago), and Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, believes the former dictator had stockpiled more than $10 billion (R100 billion) in South Africa and its neighbouring states.

In an interview with City Press, the second team has slammed the alleged role of ANC security head Tito Maleka and ANC-connected businessman Jackie Mphafudi in the recovery of $1 billion of Gaddafi’s assets in South Africa.

Treasury announced on Thursday it would return these assets – believed to be gold, diamonds and cash – to Libya, in line with UN guidelines.

This is the largest haul of Libyan assets found so far. Gaddafi, his family and his cronies stashed away more than $100 billion during the dictator’s 42 years of rule.

Libyan investigators believe that a sizeable chunk of it was hidden in southern African banks, companies and trusts.

They also believe crates with gold and cash came via private planes into South Africa.

Mphafudi and Maleka were apparently instrumental in the recovery of $1 billion of the loot and worked closely with two Libyan investigators and a Libyan embassy official, Salah Marghani, to find the assets.

City Press was told this week the second team would shortly arrive in South Africa.

It comprises Libyan investigators and arms dealers Mohamad Tag and Erik Goaied.

They have teamed up with controversial South African weapons dealer Johan Erasmus.

Erasmus said there was a 10% “recovery fee” on the Gaddafi billions, and al-Magariaf and Zeidan, the prime minister, had mandated his group to use the recouped assets to buy billions of rands of arms from Denel.

Goaied, a technical adviser to Rheinmetall Denel Munition, confirmed their presidential mandate in an email and said they had already traced some of the loot.

They believe that there are gold bars in safe storage at OR Tambo International Airport and that the Reserve Bank is in possession of pallets of seized Gaddafi money.

According to Erasmus, Mphafudi and Maleka were working with two Libyan investigators. He claims that both South Africans accompanied the Libyans to see President Jacob Zuma at his Nkandla homestead.

The Sunday Times reported that Zuma met the Libyans with his cousin Deebo Mzobe in Nkandla on April 20.

Goaied slammed the recovery team and claimed they were “trying to steal that money with many false documents”.

He said he had briefed al-Magariaf and Zeidan that “many are trying to steal that money” and that they hold a “potential threat” to Libya and its people.

Mphafudi admitted this week he met the Libyan investigators at a five-star hotel in Johannesburg, but said he was not a member of the recovery team and it was untrue that documents were forged.

Maleka had heart surgery this week and could not comment.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said this week the ANC was not involved in the recovery.

“Comrade Tito (Maleka) is far away from anything that deals with ANC funding. He deals with security issues, so why would he be involved with Treasury matters?” said Mthembu.

Mphafudi has close links with the ANC and is a former chairperson of Human ­Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale’s ­Mvelaphanda Strategic Investments.

Marghani, a counsellor at the Libyan ­embassy in Pretoria, approached the ­Treasury with evidence that Libyan assets worth $1 billion were held by four local banks and two security companies.

The Libyan delegation met with Zuma and then with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

They presented letters from the Libyan ministers of finance and justice in which they ­requested the South African government to help recover the Gaddafi assets.

In the letters, they warn that “certain ­unauthorised persons and companies are trying to move the funds illegally”. They also requested the government to prevent illegal attempts to recoup the Gaddafi billions.

This is a possible reference to Tag, Goaied and Erasmus.

City Press understands that Tag and Goaied have visited South Africa regularly since the fall of Gaddafi to make enquiries about the hidden loot.

Erasmus confirmed this week that he was in partnership with Goaied and that they had presented Denel with an enormous “shopping list” of arms the Libyans wanted to buy with the recovered assets.

Tag and Goaied had a recent meeting with Mapisa-Nqakula. They presented their ­credentials to her and discussed the purchase of South African weaponry with the return of recovered Gaddafi loot.

Defence ministry spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga confirmed the meeting, and said Tag and Goaied requested her to facilitate the purchase of the weapons.

Mapisa-Nqakula gave them a letter. They also had a meeting with Denel where they said they wanted to purchase Rooivalk attack helicopters, G6 ­cannons, unmanned aerial vehicles and missiles on behalf of the Libyan government.

Their “shopping list” for arms, worth about R8 billion, could be a lifeline for the beleaguered state-owned aerospace and defence technology company.

Mbananga said since the meeting with the minister, concerns had been raised about whether Tag and Goaied truly represented the Libyan government. They were investigating the claims.

City Press understands the role of Erasmus is also being investigated. The Hawks confiscated a consignment of his weapons last year and he was also barred from demonstrating his weapons at an infantry symposium.

He claimed last year he was a victim of “criminal elements” in the defence force and intelligence services, and is claiming R1 billion in damages from Mapisa-Nqakula.

The Reserve Bank referred City Press to this week’s Treasury statement about the return of the $1 billion. Zuma’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, did not respond to requests for comment. The Libyan embassy also did not respond.

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