Washington: Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi reportedly has “tens of billions” in cash secretly hidden away in Tripoli, allowing him to prolong his fight against rebel forces, experts have said.
Kenneth Barden, a lawyer who specialises in Middle East, said that there were indications that Gaddafi had moved billions of dollars in assets just days or weeks before the outbreak of violence in Tripoli, apparently to protect his family wealth from global sanctions.
“The money that is kept in Gaddafi’s name is probably small, but he’s got a lot in the names of family members and close associates,” the New York Times quoted Barden, as saying.
Tim Niblock, an expert on Libya and professor at the University of Exeter in Britain, said that he believed that Gaddafi had hidden cash as far back as the 1990s.
He said that it was part of a larger effort by the Libyan leader to protect his money from both the international community and his domestic foes.
“He’s always aware that he faces problems from outside and within. It would be quite foolish for him to not amass money for an eventuality like this,” Niblock said.
Libya has been in the grip of turmoil since anti-Gaddafi protests began on February 15.
Two days later, the government launched a violent crackdown on protesters, with witnesses reporting that mercenaries had been hired to patrol the streets and fire on citizens indiscriminately with machine guns and heavy weapons.
According to official figures, over 213,000 foreign workers have fled the country, and hundreds of thousands are struggling to get out.