By Martin Coyle
LONDON, Aug. 30 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – Banks face enormous legal and logistical challenges as they try to repatriate the billions of pounds worth of frozen Libyan assets invested in the war-torn North African state, according to industry officials. The process could take years to resolve even though the United Nations has already unfrozen some $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid which will be sent to the country.
The fears follow the overthrowing of Colonel Gaddafi’s dictatorship by rebel fighters and the formation of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) in Tripoli. It is estimated that as much as $120 billion of Libyan assets are sitting in bank accounts worldwide, including up to $17 billion in the UK alone. UK foreign secretary William Hague said yesterday that it might take a while to repatriate frozen Libyan assets. The U.S. and South Africa last week struck a deal that will see $1.5bn of frozen money released for humanitarian aid by the U.N. The South African government initially had concerns about money being sent to the NTC, which it does not recognise. Diplomacy has smoothed over this, however.