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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Where do #African #Dictators hide their wealth?


The revelation that Gaddafi was bringing deep red sashimi to my table was a surprise to say the least. I later discovered the fish farms represented a tuna empire stretching far and wide across southern Europe from Malta to Gibraltar, which had turned the Libyan leader and his cohorts into some of the biggest seafood players in the Mediterranean, allowing them to establish partnerships with major Spanish fishing firms and Japanese importers.
My ears pricked up. I wanted to learn more about Gaddafi’s money trail. A few months on from my visit to Syracuse, I found myself in a nightclub in the Kabalagala district of Kampala, where Gaddafi had built the city’s national mosque, listening intently in a dark corner as details were poured out to me of the Libyan revolutionary’s heavy investment in five-star hotels and shopping center construction across Uganda. By this time, details were also, independently, starting to emerge of his multi-billion investments in South Africa. Where did Gaddafi’s financial reach end I wondered? Five years, a revolution and a murder later, it would seem we are all still none the wiser.
Since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, a small but dedicated task force of lawyers and forensic accountants from Britain, the United States (US) and France have been scouring the globe for the Libyan dictators missing fortune. Tight-knit teams taking on underground bankers and mute government officials on four continents.
Theirs is a thankless task chasing shadows, rumors and, when they get really lucky, spreadsheets. But Gaddafi isn’t the only quarry this small army of investigators have in their sights. As I write this, there are people hard at work tracking down the fortunes of fallen regimes from the deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak to the recently prosecuted former Liberian leader Charles Taylor and the disgraced Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
To lighten the load of a heavy train of thought we could pause to consider the bizarre excesses of our most recent fallen despots. Gaddafi, who we know was partial to sushi and the occasional gold AK47, also had a penchant for baby grand pianos, infinity pools and Pierre Cardin carpets and upholstery. Not to be outdone, Mubarak, more of a tapas man, boasted no less than nine luxury Spanish villas. Ben Ali, rather predictably kept tigers in one of his many palaces and was running out of garage space for his 47 limousines, including an armored Maybach worth $1 million.
In 2014, financial crime among the globe’s fallen dictators broadly relates less to their garish taste in sports car but a complex  range of activities such as tax avoidance or evasion, corruption, bribery, money-laundering, price fixing and drug trafficking. All out embezzlement has many different labels.
But, finding a definition for Hague charge sheets and fighting through the legal minefield to get a prosecution isn’t the biggest challenge. Finding the money after regime change is what takes real time and effort.
Last month, the US froze assets worth $458 million alleged to have been stolen from the country by the former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. A close relative of his admitted to keeping $100 million buried in his home, which we assume, given the bulk of cash, was a large property in itself.

FORBES first published the above story on June 1, 2014.  The rest of it is at their website. 

Gaddafi's Empire Of Tuna Fish And Hotels In Uganda - Forbes Africa

A few years ago I sat staring out onto the Mediterranean from the wrought iron balcony of an old café clinging onto the crumbling walls of the harbor at Syracuse, Sicily. I can still taste the sublime ricotta-filled sfogliatella brought to my table with a tiny espresso by the lace-clad owner: the bronze, tightly wrinkled, skin on her wrists glimmering with confectioner's sugar.

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