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The Atlantic: The Quest for Libya's Frozen Assets

Author: Sophie Quinton
August 26, 2011


The Atlantic's Sophie Quinton outlines the obstacles Libyan rebels face as they seek $160 billion in frozen assets. Rebels will have to navigate a maze of United Nations sanctions, unilateral sanctions, and layers of property law to receive the assets from Qaddafi's regime.

Imagine you just inherited $160 billion. Now imagine that United Nations sanctions, unilateral sanctions, and layers of property law stand between you and your money. Now imagine that most of that money is tied up in investments and property, so that you can't get to it right away. Now imagine you're at war.

As Libyan rebels take control of Tripoli, the pressure to release the frozen assets of Muammar el-Qaddafi's regime is rising. Libya's Transitional National Council argued on Wednesday that it urgently needs at least $5 billion of the money to fund stabilization efforts, the Financial Times reported.

According to officials from Germany to Qatar, the estimated $160 billion in frozen assets now belong to the rebels and should be diverted to them as quickly as possible. The United States wants "to give back to the Libyan people, managed by the legitimate governing authority, the Transitional National Council, their own money," State Department spokeswoman Valerie Nuland told reporters earlier this week.

Easier said than done.

The negotiations over the Qaddafi regime's holdings are especially complex because so many layers of national and international law are involved, according to financial sanctions experts who work with the U.N. They anticipate long, tedious legal struggles.

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