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LIA to hire auditors in push to unfreeze assets

The Address | Benghazi – Libya

LONDON – The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) will appoint auditors within weeks and conclude a wide-ranging examination of its assets by 2019 as part of its efforts to get billions of dollars of assets unfrozen.

Chairman and chief executive of the LIA, Ali Mahmoud Hassan Mohamed, told Reuters that financial auditing and consulting company PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was one of the firms that LIA is considering.

“We want to strengthen the trust of the international community in the Libyan Investment Authority. We are cooperating with the United Nations and adhering to their sanctions,” Mohamed said in an interview in London.

“We are making reforms from top to bottom and carrying out an audit that can be used by the UN to check the assets of the LIA,” he said, adding, “we need to enhance our governance. Political splits damaged the Libyan Investment Authority. Our assets were frozen in order to protect them.”

Asked about reports on funds that had been transferred out of European bank accounts linked to LIA, Mohammed said that stemmed from dividends and interest paid on holdings of equities and fixed income instruments. The asset freeze only applied to the equity itself or the principal of the bonds, he said.

“These revenues from equity dividends are worth hundreds of millions every year. We have received those since 2011,” he said, adding more than $1 billion had been transferred to LIA’s accounts at Arab Bank Corporation (ABC) in Bahrain from custodian bank accounts in Belgium and Luxembourg since 2011.

“Money withdrawn from ABC bank was used to pay for the operational costs of the LIA. We have statements dating back to 2011,” he said, adding he had full control over the accounts and no money had disappeared.

Mohamed also said all the fund’s Tripoli-based staff had now moved out of the Tripoli Tower office block to a different, undisclosed location in the city, amid security breaches that saw a number of employees threatened or abducted by militias.

About 70 percent of the LIA’s $67 billion worth of assets have been frozen under United Nations sanctions since the toppling of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Several international media reports accused the Belgian government of financing Libyan militias involved in human trafficking through frozen Libyan assets.


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