In an official position shift, Belgium to use frozen Libyan funds for payment to Prince Laurent in failed Gaddafi era scheme

Alwasat Staff Thu 14 Jan 2021, 01:16 PM
alwasat radio

After years of repeated requests from Belgium's Prince Laurent, Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem has agreed to notify the UN sanctions committee that the country would be partially lifting the freeze on Libyan accounts, to deduct 47 million euros.

The minister of finance responded to the questions of Deputies in the Belgian parliament on Wednesday, saying that "there is no longer an objection" to notifying the UN sanctions committee to take this action.

The deduction of the 47 million euros from frozen funds belonging the Libyan Investment Authority was proposed by lawyers for Prince Laurent of Belgium after a dispute over the money which he says he was promised by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for a massive forestry scheme.

Prince Laurent worked with Libya as part of his cooperation with the global trust fund for Sustainable Development, which he managed, and was tasked with affording swathes of desert land in northern Libya, After losing the contract, Prince Laurent filed a case before a Belgian court that issued a final ruling in 2014 and determined he was owed damages by the Libyan state "for breach of contract."

The Belgian Finance Minister's position has changed dramatically since the first hearing on the matter on October 20, when he announced that there were "serious legal objections" to a sanctions committee's notification. Since then two letters containing in-depth legal clarifications were sent to the Belgian government causing the minister to change his position.

For years, Prince Laurent strongly protested the Belgian government's refusal to join a request to mediate with Libya or to use Libyan funds frozen in Belgium to pay the amount owed, although it was later revealed that Belgium had used Libyan funds for its institutions in violation of a UN resolution freezing them in 2011.

According to figures, about 15 billion euros in Libyan funds were frozen in Belgian banks, 12.8 billion euros in Euroclear bank, 869 million euros in KBC bank, 376 million euros in ING bank and 43 million euros in Fortis BNP Paribas.

A UN panel of experts said in a report submitted to the UN Security Council presidency in 2019 that Euroclear bank was in "non-compliance with the assets freeze." The UN report noted that the bank allowed interest payments from the frozen funds of the former Gaddafi regime to bank accounts belonging to the Libyan Investment Authority in other countries until 23 October 2017.

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