Sunday, May 29, 2011

Documents Purported to Show Libya Holds Billions in Financial Institutions

May 26, 2011, 6:24 PM ET.

Document Shows Libya Holds Billions In Western Institutions

Several Western financial institutions were holding Libyan state oil revenue last year, according to the nonprofit Global Witness, which cited a document it obtained.

The document names Goldman Sachs, HSBC Holdings, Societe Generale and several other institutions holding some of the sovereign wealth fund’s assets, which totaled more than $53 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2010, Global Witness said.

The Libyan sovereign wealth fund, as well as the national oil company, are now under international sanctions. Many of the national oil company’s subsidiaries are also under sanctions.

The document (pdf) is a summary of the Libyan Investment Authority’s investments created for the fund by KPMG and is dated June 30, 2010, according to the New York Times, which said it verified the document independently. The LIA wasn’t under sanctions at that time.

Among the findings in the document are: The LIA held $292.7 million in deposits across 10 accounts in HSBC, it had $19 billion spread across Libyan and other Middle Eastern Banks, $1 billion in structured products at Societe Generale and a small amount at Goldman. It also owned shares at dozens of household-name companies, including AT&T, Siemens, Deutche Telekom, BP, Pfizer and Halliburton.

The Gadhafi family asserts significant control over the funds invested in the LIA. “Gadhafi makes no distinction between his personal assets and the resources of the country,” said the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in a document filed at The Hague (pdf).

The banks cited in the document contacted by Corruption Currents either declined to comment or said bank secrecy rules prevent them from doing so.

“Out of our duty of confidentiality, we can not comment on individuals or companies, even to confirm or deny they are clients,” wrote Rob Sherman, an HSBC spokesman, in an emailed statement, which also said HSBC “abides by the rules and regulations of every country in which it operates, and complies with international sanctions.”

Societe Generale said, “Societe Generale deals with many sovereign funds and complies with all applicable rules and regulations in that matter. The bank cannot comment on any specific client or transaction.”

Goldman declined to comment.

In its Wednesday night statement announcing the document, Global Witness blasted the banks as hiding behind customer confidentiality.

“These are state accounts, so the customer is effectively the Libyan people and these banks are withholding vital information from them,” said Charmian Gooch, director of Global Witness, in the statement.

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