Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

The Kleptocrats Are Looting Libya

The Kleptocrats Are Looting Libya

Saturday, 30 January, 2021 - 11:45
Dr. Jebril El-Abidi
Libyan writer and researcher

Libya is suffering from international disputes entangled with internal chaos and conflicts, which has resulted in the willful postponement of a solution to the crisis and the perpetuation of chaos and plunder of public money.

This situation has left the people of the country suffering from both issues; rather, it has left some Libyans- citizens of a nation having the largest oil and gas reserves in North Africa- in need of international humanitarian assistance. Amid these conditions, the question of which of the goals of the “revolution” and the “Arab Spring” (livelihood, freedom, social justice) have been achieved, recurs ten difficult years later, amid the presence of two governments that have been unable to prevent the price of a loaf of bread from skyrocketing, curb inflation, or prevent the collapse of the dinar’s value.

Instead, corruption and plunder have reached unprecedented levels, and funds have been going to other countries’ treasuries, the tyrants of the thieving class that ransacked the Libyan state’s coffers and those profiting from the crisis. They exploit the crisis in Libya, seeking to invest in it and even perpetuate it. Former UN envoy Ghassan Salame described this systematic plunder as the world’s most extensive looting (not mere robbery) operation, with a new millionaire emerging every day in Libya. He also stressed that the conflict would not be resolved without bringing to an end the plunder of public funds and the “black economy” that has been born out of it.

Some politicians are working to keep things as they are, in an attempt to hinder any change in the executive authority and elections from being held, as this would bring their privileged access to the state’s coffers to an end. So long as the state is absent and made to stay that way, Libya’s money, frozen and unfrozen, even its foreign investments, will continue to be looted, in what is an unprecedented crisis of plunder.

The same is true for this situation’s persistence through the obstruction of political dialogue sponsored by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya. Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Stephanie Williams spoke about these attempts in a statement to the British newspaper The Guardian, describing those standing in the way of the elections as “kleptocrats”, and said that they would try to obstruct the elections scheduled for December 24 because they pose a direct threat to their privileges.

“Libya has a status quo party that crosses conflict lines [East and West] – these are the people that have benefited from the current exceptional structure, and they do not want to leave it... and lose their privileged access to the coffers and resources of the state.”

Those whom Stephanie Williams described as kleptocrats are a corrupt political class in the executive authority accused of embezzlement and financial corruption. Kleptocracy is a compound word of two parts; the first, klepto, refers to theft, and the second, crat, relates to governance. Kleptocracies are usually associated with dictatorship and oligarchy, the rule of a few who create an economy of robbery or looting, and Libya is an exemplar.

Kleptocracies usually establish a global financial network built to launder their money. The International Monetary Fund estimates the kleptocratic economy makes up about 2 to 5 percent of the global economy and believes that most of the money laundering is done through shell companies set up to conceal ownership of assets money.

Half a trillion dollars in oil revenues have been generated over the past years and gone to “unknown destinations,” confirming systematic looting as the Central Bank is accused of paying Syrian militias and mercenaries. The Audit Bureau and the Libyan Supervisory Authority’s reports affirm the horrific and terrifying extent of corruption in the ministries of the executive authority divided by two governments, one in the east and another in the west.

Given that half a trillion dollars have been squandered in Libya- either because of looting or negligence- in just a few years, Williams described the county as “kleptocracy” without hesitation, trepidation, or political pandering.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks