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JEREMY HOBSON: To Libya now. The UN’s top human rights official is calling for the international community to step in vigorously after reports of mass killings of anti-government protesters. Today, NATO will meet to discuss possible military action. And European governments are moving to freeze the assets of Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi. He’s suspected of stashing billions of dollars in assets outside the country.
One of the places he’s suspected of stashing money is London, and that’s where we’re joined by Marketplace’s Stephen Beard to discuss this. Hi Stephen.
STEPHEN BEARD: Hello Jeremy.
HOBSON: So tell us who’s freezing what?
BEARD: The Swiss have frozen any assets owned by the Gaddafi family held in Switzerland. Switzerland is of course the haven for loot — dictator’s loot. But, Gaddafi had a furious row with the Swiss three years ago and he may have taken all of his money out of the country. The real focus of the tension is London. It’s the traditional playground for rich Arab, Saif Gaddafi, his son, is known to have a $15 million mansion here. And there are stories circulating that Gaddafi could have tens of billions invested here in fairly liquid assets.
HOBSON: So Stephen what are the British authorities doing about that?
BEARD: Well, they set up a unit to trace Gaddafi’s assets in Britain. Now of course, you know he’s not going to wait around for his assets to be frozen, but they may effectively have already been frozen.
Tim Daniel, a lawyer who specialized in asset tracking says the British authorities sent out a warning more than a week ago to all banks and brokers and lawyers to be very careful about handling property with Gaddafi’s finger prints on it.
TIM DANIEL: Although it’s not a formal freezing of assets, I think that any responsible banking organization would think hard before transferring money out of these accounts if they knew it to be connected with Libya and particularly with the Gaddafi family.
The British government’s taken a lot of heat in recent days, especially from the U.S. for having allegedly sucked up to Gaddafi, releasing the Lockaby Bomber for example. It seems the U.K. now wants to make amends and stop the Gaddafi billions disappearing into the ether.
HOBSON: Marketplace’s Stephen Beard in London.
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