Financial Heist of the Century: Confiscating Libya's Sovereign Wealth Funds

The objective of the war against Libya is not just its oil reserves (now estimated at 60 billion barrels), which are the greatest in Africa and whose extraction costs are among the lowest in the world, nor the natural gas reserves of which are estimated at about 1,500 billion cubic meters. In the crosshairs of "willing" of the operation “Unified Protector” there are sovereign wealth funds, capital that the Libyan state has invested abroad.


The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) manages sovereign wealth funds estimated at about $70 billion U.S., rising to more than $150 billion if you include foreign investments of the Central Bank and other bodies. But it might be more. Even if they are lower than those of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, Libyan sovereign wealth funds have been characterized by their rapid growth. When LIA was established in 2006, it had $40 billion at its disposal. In just five years, LIA has invested over one hundred companies in North Africa, Asia, Europe, the U.S. and South America: holding, banking, real estate, industries, oil companies and others.


In Italy, the main Libyan investments are those in UniCredit Bank (of which LIA and the Libyan Central Bank hold 7.5 percent), Finmeccanica (2 percent) and ENI (1 percent), these and other investments (including 7.5 percent of the Juventus Football Club) have a significance not as much economically (they amount to some $5.4 billion) as politically.


Libya, after Washington removed it from the blacklist of “rogue states,” has sought to carve out a space at the international level focusing on "diplomacy of sovereign wealth funds." Once the U.S. and the EU lifted the embargo in 2004 and the big oil companies returned to the country, Tripoli was able to maintain a trade surplus of about $30 billion per year which was used largely to make foreign investments. The management of sovereign funds has however created a new mechanism of power and corruption in the hands of ministers and senior officials, which probably in part escaped the control of the Gadhafi himself: This is confirmed by the fact that, in 2009, he proposed that the 30 billion in oil revenues go "directly to the Libyan people." This aggravated the fractures within the Libyan government.

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