A $16 million house on London's "Millionaire Row" could be the first Gaddafi family asset in the UK to be returned to the Libyan government.
The luxury property with more than a half-dozen bedrooms and an indoor swimming pool is currently occupied by a group of squatters from an organization called Topple the Tyrants, but attorneys have discovered that it is actually belongs to Saadi Gadhafi, a son of former dictator Moammar Gaddafi. Lawyers, including Mohamed Sheban, acting for the Libyan embassy asked the London High Court to transfer ownership of the house on 7 Winnington Close over to the Libyan government.
"The assets (in the U.K.) could be divided in two: those that are in the name of the Libyan state controlled by Col. Gaddafi, where we know her majesty's treasury valued those at around $12 billion. Fortunately, most of those have been under sanctioned and were quite well protected," Sheban said. "The other aspect of the assets for which valuation is very, very difficult, are those assets enjoyed by himself and his offspring, which are registered in the name of all sorts of obscure offshore vehicles. And a figure for that is quite difficult to determine."
Sheban said his group was trying to do a lot of detective work to find those assets. Gaddafi's net worth had been estimated as at least $600 million when he was overthrown. Properties have been found in the U.K., Toronto and there are rumors of some in the United States as well.
"Slowly we are uncovering some assets," he said.
Enter 7 Winnington Close, which squatters had taken over.
"Subsequently, what happened, squatters or Libyan citizens moved in to protect the building while the legal case is going on to transfer the title from the current owner to the state of Libya," Sheban said. "Meanwhile there are what's known in the business as friendly squatters, looking after the building while the case goes through the courts."
What remains to be done is identifying who owns the building, but also that if it is Gaddafi, that they should be transferred to the Libyan people.
"We need to show that the source of the funding for the acquisition of those assets were Libyan state funds which were misappropriated by Gaddafi or his children," Sheban said. "Misused for personal gain."