MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This week, tens of billions of dollars in assets belonging to Moammar Gadhafi, his family or perhaps the government of Libya were frozen. The United Nations and countries including the United States, leveled the sanctions in response to Gadhafi's violent crackdown on protesters.
NPR's John Ydstie has more now on just how much money we're talking about.
JOHN YDSTIE: To hear Colonel Gadhafi tell it, all this talk of his real estate holdings, investments and huge bank accounts is simply a Western conspiracy.
President MOAMMAR GADHAFI (Libya): (Through Translator) I have no assets and I don't take pride in keeping assets of American dollars.
YDSTIE: That's Gadhafi speaking about the asset freeze at a rally of his supporters this week. Al-Jazeera provides the translation.
President GADHAFI: (Through Translator) They are my personal accounts. I am ready to have these accounts verified. My salary is only 465 dinars.
YDSTIE: That's about $380, not much for the leader of an oil-rich nation. But Adam Szubin, who's in charge of the financial sanctions office at the U.S. Treasury, has a much different assessment of Gadhafi's financial resources.
Mr. ADAM SZUBIN (Director, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of Treasury): It's obviously a pretty stunning figure.
YDSTIE: Szubin is referring to the almost $32 billion in assets already frozen by U.S. authorities. And he says that number continues to grow.
Mr. SZUBIN: We're responding hourly to calls from institutions across the U.S. that are trying to verify or confirm whether they are holding government of Libya assets.
YDSTIE: But Szubin won't say exactly how or where the nearly $32 billion is invested. Also, the U.S. government won't say how much is in the Gadhafi clan's personal accounts, as opposed to Libyan government accounts.
J. Scott Carpenter, a Libya expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says that's a distinction without a difference anyway.
Mr. J. SCOTT CARPENTER (Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy): The notion that there is some way to separate what is the family's from what is the state's, is a nearly impossible task.
YDSTIE: One of the major vehicles for those global investments is the Libya Investment Authority, the country's sovereign wealth fund. The LIA is estimated to control somewhere around $70 billion. The Gadhafi/Libya investments in Europe are more well-known than those in the U.S. For instance, the LIA and Libya's central bank own more than seven percent of one of Italy's largest banks, UniCredit. Another entity, the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company, owns seven and a half percent of a major Italian soccer club.
Among other investments, a stake in a luxury hotel project overlooking Trafalgar Square in London and a small share of Pearson PLC, which publishes the Financial Times and The Economist.
Carpenter says advancing Libya's interests and burnishing its reputation probably trumped profits as investment goals.
Mr. CARPENTER: I don't know that the investments were seen to be necessarily making money for the Libyan economy, but that would somehow be used to advance Libya's foreign policy or political interest as a state.
YDSTIE: Gadhafi's U.S. investments are more opaque than those in Europe. Reportedly, major New York banks including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs hold some Libyan assets. Also, officials of the politically connected private equity firm The Carlyle Group have had meetings with Libyan officials, including one of Gadhafi's sons. It's not clear whether they ultimately did business.
Carlyle's managing director, David Rubenstein, said this week that Colonel Gadhafi himself was not an investor. Nevertheless, says J. Scott Carpenter, Gadhafi's interest in working with The Carlyle Group, which once employed the first President Bush and former British leader John Major, is instructive.
Mr. CARPENTER: If you're looking for partners and you have $30 billion to spend, you want it to benefit those who might be able to help you get off of the terrorist list, or end the sanction regimes, or protect you in moments like this when you're under pressure domestically.
YDSTIE: Given Gadhafi's bloody crackdown, it's unlikely he'll find any business partners willing to go to bat for him now.
John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington.
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