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UK judge rules Gaddafi mansion sale profits must go to US arms firm

April 17, 2024 at 5:18 pm

Squatters demonstrate outside the London home of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, in London, England on March 9, 2011 [Oli Scarff/Getty Images]

A British judge has ruled that a US arms manufacturer, General Dynamics, is entitled to the proceeds from the sale of a £9 million ($11.2 million) property in London, once owned by the family of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The property was at the centre of a legal battle between General Dynamics and the state of Libya, with the US firm seeking to recoup £16 million ($19.9 million) it is owed for the supply of military vehicles and communications equipment to the North African country.

The property, once owned by Saadi Gaddafi, was seized by Libya in 2012 after a court ruled him to be the beneficial owner. General Dynamics sought arbitration from the International Chamber of Commerce, which ruled in its favour in 2016. However, Libya appealed to Britain’s Supreme Court and won, but the US firm is pressing on with its legal moves to recover its money.

Libya has claimed that it is exempt from legal action taken by the company because of “state immunity”, but this claim was rejected by a judge at the High Court in London. The company must now apply for a court order to get the property sold so that it can recoup at least some of its money.

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The contract between Libya and General Dynamics’ British subsidiary was signed in 2008 and involved the supply of military communication equipment, years after Gaddafi abandoned his nuclear weapons and returned to mainstream international politics. The deal was for a Tactical Communication and Information System “at a price in excess of £84 million [$104.6 million],” according to court documents.

Tim Eaton, an expert on Libya at the Chatham House think tank, told The National that Gaddafi was “famed for seeing Libya’s assets as his assets” to use to “support patronage networks and to benefit individuals rather than bettering the situation of the Libyan people.

“If this case comes to pass and you see assets taken by the regime going to a contractor then the Libyan people will have got nothing out of it. It’s understandable that the contractors want to be recompensed but that’s not going to help the Libyan people much.”