In a landmark case, the new Libyan government has won the right to recover stolen assets in Britain from the Gaddafi regime, Brian Whitaker of the Guardian reports on his blog. But the recovery of Saadi Gaddafi’s luxurious house in north london is also a setback for Dr Shaul Zadka’s campaign to earmark stolen assets as compensation to dispossessed Libyan Jews:
The luxurious London property (shown here, inside and out, in a set of photographs on the Telegraph’s website), was acquired in 2009 by Capitana Seas Limited, a company based in the financially-secretive British Virgin Islands. Normally, a Virgin Islands registration would be enough to conceal the identity of its real owner but, as a result of UN sanctions imposed on Libya, the British authorities were able to establish that the beneficial owner of the company – and the house – was Saadi Gaddafi.
In the High Court yesterday, Justice Popplewell ruled that the property had been “wrongfully and unlawfully purchased” using funds belonging to the Libyan state. He ordered Capitana Seas to hand over the house within 14 days and to pay legal costs of $188,300.
The Libyan government had argued that Saadi’s official salary as a commander at the defence ministry was not enough to cover the cost of the house, nor was the income from his brief career as a professional footballer in Italy. Saadi is currently believed to be under house arrest in Niger and is said to have been aware of the court case.
The case is important because this is thought to be the first time that a country involved in the Arab Spring has successfully recovered stolen assets. It may open the way to other cases, including one concerning property in Toronto owned by Saadi Gaddafi.