COLONEL Gaddafi secretly deposited 3 billion pounds ($4.8bn) with one of London’s Mayfair private wealth managers last week as he sought to protect his family’s fortunes.
The deal was brokered on his behalf by a Swiss-based intermediary who, it is understood, had previously approached another well-known City stockbroking firm five weeks ago with a view to depositing funds.
However, when that stockbroker discovered the ultimate identity of the source of the funds, it advised the intermediary to take his business elsewhere.
The chief executive of the firm told The Times: “I said no, because personally I’m not comfortable dealing with murdering tyrants with blood on their hands.”
The go-between then looked for another firm to take the funds.
The news comes as the UK Treasury has stepped up efforts to trace and freeze Colonel Gaddafi’s assets in Britain, which are believed to include billions of dollars in bank accounts, some commercial property and a ₤10 million ($15.9m) mansion in London.
The Treasury’s Asset Tracing Unit, set up in October 2007 to implement and administer international financial sanctions, is understood to be supervising the work.
At the same time, the US government is escalating attempts to prevent the dictator from moving assets out of Libya, telling American banks to monitor closely transactions that may be linked to the crisis.
The Swiss government last night ordered Swiss banks to freeze any assets belonging to Colonel Gaddafi, issuing a comprehensive blocking order covering 29 people, including the dictator’s wife and children, some of his wife’s relatives and six officials of the regime.
It is believed, though, that the Gaddafi family may have moved much of their money out of Switzerland already. This follows a diplomatic row when, three years ago, the Swiss police arrested the dictator’s son, Hannibal, after claims that he had beaten his servants while staying in a Geneva hotel.
The inquiry was later dropped but, in response to the original claims, Tripoli said it was removing all Libyan assets from Swiss banks.
The chief executive of the stockbroking firm that was initially asked to take the money told The Times that he was approached by a Swiss intermediary who said that he wanted to invest ₤3bn on behalf of a Libyan family.
“It was all very odd – almost like they had looked us up in the Yellow Pages,” he said. “I think the Swiss intermediary was perfectly legitimate. You have to remember that, five weeks ago, dealing with Libya was legitimate.
“But there’s been loads of this – we understand Gaddafi has about ten billion in the City,” he added.
He said the intermediary had indicated that the money was to have been used to buy stocks in London. London-based stockbrokers and investment managers have noted a surge of money emerging from North Africa and the Middle East during the past month.
Lawyers told The Times that the Mayfair money manager would not have had to apply to the Financial Services Authority, the City watchdog, for clearance under anti-money laundering regulations.
They explained that when information on deposits of this size is filed with regulators, the Swiss intermediary – not Colonel Gaddafi – would have been registered as the client.