Shot ex-Gaddafi banker not target of a hit – police

National police have dismissed reports from about three months ago that slain Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's banker, who was shot in Johannesburg in February, was the target of a hit.

Police said Bashir Saleh was wounded in a robbery on the evening of February 23 while in a taxi travelling to Houghton.

At the time of his shooting several foreign publications, including the Libyan Express, reported that the attack was an assassination attempt. There was also widespread speculation about whether he had been targeted because of his background.

However, on Sunday national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, who named Saleh in a statement as Shaghani Bashir, said this was not the case.

"The national investigation unit was tasked with the investigation as speculation, particularly in the media, was rife that the shooting of Mr Bashir was a 'hit'," he said.

"However, it has emerged that the motive had been robbery after the team arrested two suspects aged 32 and 35 years on Friday in Ivory Park in Tembisa."

READ: Hammer-wielding robbers attack, shoot former Gaddafi banker in Joburg

Four men in a sedan cornered the taxi Saleh was in on Athol Oakland Road, Naidoo said.

"The four men, armed with handguns and a hammer, demanded that the driver open the door. When the driver refused, one of the suspects broke the window with the hammer."

They assaulted the driver, forced him from the car and robbed and shot Saleh, he said.

Saleh was rushed to hospital and was later discharged.

International links

In March the BBC reported that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy had been taken in for questioning about allegedly receiving campaign funding from Gaddafi.

It said Saleh had reportedly confirmed that Gaddafi had funded Sarkozy.

Saleh's time in South Africa has been viewed as controversial.

South African police had been aware of his presence in the country since at least 2013. 

'Zuma knew he was here'

Former president Jacob Zuma had also apparently been aware that Saleh was in the country.

In June 2013 then DA MP Tim Harris issued a press statement in which he said Zuma "made a shocking admission in his response to parliamentary questions in the House... when he suggested that South Africa is not able to monitor or prevent the movement of" Saleh in and out of the country.

At the start of June 2017 the United Nations Security Council issued a report by a panel of experts on Libya.

This panel was tasked with, among other matters, monitoring the political transition in Libya.

It identified a bank branch in South Africa and Saleh as being involved in transfers of millions of dollars to a bank in Kenya.

In 2013 DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard claimed Saleh had been seen several times in South Africa, this despite him being on Interpol's wanted list.

'No extradition treaty with Libya'

According to a set of parliamentary questions and replies dated June 25, 2013, then police minister Nathi Mthethwa had confirmed he had been informed of Saleh's presence in the country in February 2013.

Asked at the time why Saleh had not been arrested, Mthethwa replied: "The Interpol Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant which allows for immediate arrest. Once a fugitive is detected, a provisional arrest warrant should be requested and provided through Interpol channels, followed by original documentation between the competent authorities through diplomatic channels.

"Requests for clarity on whether this specific person is still wanted and to provide the required documentation were sent through the Interpol communication channel to Libya. These requests are still to be answered. There is no extradition treaty in place between Libya and South Africa."

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