Conflict & Justice

Libyan diplomats' desperate UK fire sale

Libyan embassy staff in Britain desperately tried to sell off millions of dollars of assets before being thrown out of the country.

Two diplomats were ordered by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime to sell off nine exclusive properties, mostly in London, 29 top-of-the-range cars, furniture and even carpets in the last-minute fire sale, the Daily Mirror reports.

After learning the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office was about to expel them, they tried to get rid of about $US162 million worth of assets, it says.

The Daily Mirror reports:

At one point, a fleet of large vans was spotted outside the Libyan embassy building in London with staff loading up the vehicles with furniture.

One diplomat even tried to dispose of some upmarket properties at half price.

The fire sale was an attempt to undermine the rebel administration, which was about to take over the embassy in the capital’s exclusive Knightsbridge.

But the move was dramatically blocked by the British government and Treasury.

A source said yesterday: “Among the items they tried to sell were cars and even houses owned by Tripoli – but apparently with very little success.

“A call came from Tripoli to sell as many of the embassy’s assets as possible.

“Vans turned up outside the embassy building. Some of the other staff were so worried they hid the car keys. But some were sold. They also tried, unsuccessfully, to get some frozen assets to sell.

“We believe this was done in other ­embassies – that it also happened in Algiers.”

It is understood that staff loyal to the National Transition Council, which has taken over the embassy, and is based in Benghazi, were tipped off by British intelligence sources that the sale had begun at the end of last month, the Daily Telegraph reports.

"In the days before their expulsion an instruction came in from Tripoli to sell everything before it became too late," an opposition Libya official said, it reports.

Britain recently revealed it has released £91million (US$147 million) of frozen assets to the National Transition Council to help the rebellion bring down Gaddafi's regime.

Another £200 million (US$323 million) has also been freed up to aid rebel fighters as they reportedly moved closer to Tripoli in the past week.

Last month Foreign Secretary William Hague allowed the NTC to take over the UK embassy, called the Libyan People’s Bureau.

At the same time, the Libyan charge d’affaires and four other officials were thrown out of Britain because of their loyalty to Colonel Gaddafi.

Three embassy workers, who are not believed to have been involved in the sell-off, have since declared their loyalty to the NTC and are allowed to remain in the U.K.