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Libyan assets in Belgium: where did the money go?

Belgium released the interest raised on Libyan assets frozen in Belgium as a result of UN action, while this is really not permitted.  VRT's current affairs’ flagship Pano attempted to discover how this could have happened.

In 2011, after 42 years in power, the regime of Colonel Gaddafi is brought down.  During this period the Libyan leader has amassed a great fortune.  Much of this money is managed by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) that invested across the globe also in Belgium at Euroclear.  When Gaddafi is ousted and the UN freezes his assets 14 billion euros is deposited at Euroclear. The assets are frozen on behalf of the Libyan people until a more stable regime emerges.  In Belgium the treasury supervises the operation.

Several years later Prince Laurent's not-for-profit organisation is awarded compensation because the Libyans drop a forestation project it is involved in.  The Libyans refuse to cough up and the prince's lawyers home in on the frozen assets, but the Belgian treasury refuses to release any cash. The prince's lawyers, however, discover that the interest yielded by the assets has disappeared, transferred to foreign accounts.  The amount is around 350 million a year. Experts note that the interest too should have been frozen: Belgium has violated UN sanctions.

A UN report raises fears the cash ended up with Libyan militias that are involved in people-trafficking, illegal arms trade and blackmail.  Belgian lawmakers are alerted and are eager to find out who released the cash and where it ended up.  At the time of the freezing Didier Reynders was Belgian finance minister, Steven Vanackere Belgian foreign minister.  At the end of 2011 they switch portfolios.

The Belgian finance select committee called several experts to clear up the matter including Marc Monbaliu, in 2012 treasury director and it was the treasury that gave Euroclear a green light to release the funds.  Mr Monbaliu says he took the decision on his own, though this statement conflicts with an earlier account he gave. The treasury head also argues that it was a European decision, though no backing for this claim can be discovered.  At the EU nobody is willing to confirm that other nations too released interest payments.

VRT's Pano comes to the conclusion that everybody seems to be hiding from their responsibilities including the politicians.  A judicial police investigation could now bring greater clarity.  The prince's not-for-profit organisation has filed a complaint and there are concerns Belgian money-laundering laws have been violated.