Washington: Slain Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi secretly salted away an estimated staggering USD 200 billion in bank accounts, real estate and corporate investments around the world before he was killed.
The Libyan dictator, who faced an ignominious but gruesome death, had hidden huge amounts of cash, gold reserves and investments, and the amount is double that Western governments previously had suspected, the Los Angeles Times reported.
It claimed that Western officials have struggled all year not only to identify Gaddafi`s money but also to convince countries such as India, China and Russia to seize Libyan investments as required by the UN Security Council resolutions.
If the value proves accurate, the paper said, Gaddafi will go down in the history as the most rapacious as well as one of the most bizarre leaders of the world on a scale with the late Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire or the late Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos.
The newspaper said that US administration officials were stunned last spring when they stumbled upon USD 37 billion in Libyan regime`s accounts and investments in the US. They quickly moved to freeze them, before Gaddafi or his aides could shift them.
Similarly, governments in France, UK, Germany and Italy have seized control of more than USD 30 billion held in these countries.
Earlier, European investigators had estimated that Gaddafi stashed away about USD 100 billion before US and NATO forces moved against him.
But new international investigations have revealed that Gaddafi secretly sent tens of billions more abroad over the years.
The paper said that Gaddafi had made huge new investments in nearly every major country including much of the Middle East and South West Asia.
The USD 200 billion figure is about double the pre-war economic output of Libya.
Investigations have already found that Gaddafi`s investments included several high-profile Western ventures including the Italian soccer club Juventus, the Italian bank UniCredit and the British publishers Pearson, which owns the Financial Times newspaper.
Gaddafi, who held sway over Libya with an iron fist rule for 42 years, was shot and killed by rebels in his hometown of Sirte on Thursday after the revolutionary forces overran his last bastion.