US embassy cable - 06TRIPOLI198 (original version)

QADHAFI INCORPORATED (original version)

Identifier: 06TRIPOLI198
Wikileaks: View 06TRIPOLI198 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tripoli
Created: 2006-05-10 09:26:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: ECON ECIN ETRD PGOV LY
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
R 100926Z MAY 06
FM USLO TRIPOLI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0829
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY VALLETTA 
AMEMBASSY ROME 
DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
USLO TRIPOLI 
S E C R E T  TRIPOLI 000198 
 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/MAG, NEA/PI 
LONDON FOR TSOU 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  4/26/2016 
TAGS: ECON, ECIN, ETRD, PGOV, LY 
SUBJECT: QADHAFI INCORPORATED 
 
REF: TRIPOLI 33, 53 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Elizabeth Fritschle, Pol/Econ Chief, U.S. Liaison 
Office, Department of State. 
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 
 
1.  (C)  SUMMARY. Qadhafi often speaks out publicly against 
government corruption, but the politically-connected elite has 
direct access to lucrative business deals.   This commercial 
access can easily be cut off when individuals fall out of favor. 
The Qadhafi family and other Jamahiriya political favorites 
profit from being able to manipulate the multi-layered and 
regularly shifting dynamics of governance mechanisms in Libya. 
They have strong interests in the oil and gas sector, 
telecommunications,  infrastructure development, hotels, media 
distribution, and consumer goods distribution.  The financial 
interests of Qadhafi and his key allies present both 
opportunites and challenges for reform efforts in Libya.  Any 
reform is likely to be cyclical over the long-term.   END SUMMARY 
 
--------------------------------------- 
Saif's Call For Freedom of the Press Equals Net Profit 
--------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C)  As with many other regimes, politically-connected 
members of the Libyan elite have direct access to lucrative 
business contracts.   Qadhafi often speaks out publicly against 
government corruption and sometimes dismisses officials who are 
caught in gross improprieties.  In some cases, it appears that 
falling out of favor politically can trigger the discovery of 
improprieties in business dealings that might not otherwise come 
to public attention.  As reported reftel, Saif al-Islam's 
One-Nine group will reportedly start marketing foreign 
publications in Libya in the near future.   The Qadhafi 
Foundation, Saif's quasi-NGO, is hailing the move as an example 
of freedom and reform in the Jamahiriya.  At the same time, it 
is another example of how the Qadhafi family and other 
Jamahiriya political favorites profit from being able to 
manipulate the multi-layered and regularly shifting dynamics of 
governance mechanisms in Libya.   The Qadhafi family will 
clearly accrue significant financial gains from having exclusive 
rights to distribute foreign press in Libya, as well as 
effective censorship over any troubling articles that might 
appear.  The One-Nine group gets it name from the September 1, 
1969 anniversary of the Muammar Qadhafi-led military coup that 
overthrew King Idris. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
Oil and Gas Revenues Channeled to Qadhafis and Political Elite 
------------------------------------------- 
 
3. (S)  All of the Qadhafi children and favorites are supposed 
to have income streams from the National Oil Company and oil 
services subsidiaries.   Saif is involved in oil services 
through One-Nine Petroleum and other Qadhafi family members and 
associates are believed to have large financial stakes in the 
Libyan Tamoil oil marketing company based in Europe and Oil 
Invest.  AbdelMagid al-Mansuri, the former "director" of 
One-Nine Petroleum, was responsible for the ill-executed 
"U.S.-Libya Economic Forum" held at the Corinthia Hotel December 
2004.  The Forum was viewed as a blatant attempt to tie up 
lucrative percentage deals for Libyan elites looking for 
representative relationships with U.S. companies.  During 2004, 
the internet-based publication Libya al-Yown distributed 
information tracing a large number of sweetheart deals to 
One-Nine's Oil and Gas division, as well as unnamed oil service 
companies in Scotland, home to a well-connected Libyan 
expatriate community.   It is believed that millions of dollars 
are distributed to politically connected Libyans and Libyan 
expatriates via the oil services companies.   Econoff met with 
al-Mansuri, who was publicly chastised by Saif during the 
December 2004 conference, in February 2006 and the former 
"director" was looking for new employment after the bungled deal 
making. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Aisha Competes with Saif on Charitable Activities and Broad 
Commercial Interests 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
4.   (C)  Dr. Aisha Muammar Al-Qadhafi, General Secretary of the 
Wa'atassemo Charity Society, is patron of the December 4-7, 2006 
 Infrastructure Libya: The International Exhibition and Forum 
for Libya's Infrastructure and Economic Development implemented 
by the UK conference organizer Montgomery and Associates. Also 
listed as cooperating organizations are the General People's 
Committee for Planning, the General Board of Infrastructure and 
Urban Development, and the Inspector General of Housing and 
Utilities.    At the same time, there will be a U.S.-Libya Oil, 
Gas and Energy Exhibition and Forum at the same International 
Fairgrounds, also under Wa'atassemo sponsorship, and coordinated 
by U.S. company Nathan and Associates.   Until recently, Aisha 
has been in the public eye based on charitable activities, 
sponsoring human rightsseminars and the situation in Iraq (with 
a distinct focus on the negative effects of the presence of U.S. 
and foreign troops), signing up for the international advisory 
board for Saddam Hussein's defense strategy, and promoting 
social welfare for women and children.   She now appears to be 
branching out into areas that will give her more direct 
connections with the energy and construction sectors, especially 
since the government has announced that housing development will 
the major focus of the 2006 budget distributions.   Nasser 
Nageh, a member of the Libyan Business Council and a Wa'atassemo 
event coordinator (also formerly an active member of a 
Revolutionary Committee)  said that Aisha was actively looking 
to branch out into other areas, perhaps because of her recent 
marriage to a Qadhaf al-Dam with additional business interests. 
 Aisha is also reported to have financial interests in the 
private St. James Clinic of Tripoli, one of the two most 
trustworthy medical facilities that supplement the unreliable 
health care available through public facilities. In addition to 
health care management and referrals to hospitals to Malta and 
elsewhere in Europe, the clinic has an extensive aesthetic 
surgery practice. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
Competition Between Siblings led to Takeover of Coca Cola Plant 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
5.  (C)  The recent controversy over the Coca Cola plant in 
Tripoli also highlighted Qadhafi family involvement in 
commercial enterprise.   While three different sons Saadi, 
Mohammed and Mutassim, were all rumored to be fighting at 
different points over who had the right to the representative 
license, the dispute was supposedly argued before the courts and 
resolved through mediation.  The very twisted tale of the Coke 
franchise, reported in Tripoli 53, continues to confound the 
local business and diplomatic community attempts to ascertain 
exactly what interests are in play.   One well-connected 
consumer goods distributor said that Qadhafi's son Mutassim was 
involved in setting-up the Coca-Cola franchise held by the 
Egyptian Ka'Mur group during the late 1990s.   Some rumor that 
Mutassim was linked with a coup attempt around 2001 and 
informally exiled to Europe and Egypt, only allowed to return to 
Tripoli for short trips to visit his mother.   Supposedly, 
Mutassim lost control of many of his personal Libyan business 
interests during the period of 2001 to 2005 when his brothers 
took advantage of his absence to put in place their own 
partnerships.   Mutassim was recently spotted by Pol/Econ Chief 
arriving on a British Air flight at Tripoli International 
Airport, greeted by a small group of well wishers and protocol 
assistants with bouquets of flowers, then whisked off to the VIP 
arrivals lounge and into his vehicles without passing through 
customs or immigration.  Qadhafi son Mohammed heads the Libyan 
Olympic Committee that now owns 40% of the Libyan Beverage 
Company, currently the Libyan joint venture Coca-Cola 
franchisee.  The British Ambassador to Libya reported his 
sources attributed the resolution to  a deal whereby Mohammed 
Al-Qadhafi was prevailed upon to relinquish his/Libyan Olympic 
Committee's share of the joint venture and sign it over to the 
Libyan Pensions Fund.  Another Ambassador chimed in that he 
heard it was sister Aisha Al-Qadhafi who mediated the dispute 
between the two brothers and got Mohammed out of the soda 
business. If Libyan government officials are asked about the 
Coca Cola case, the standard response is that the government was 
making sure that all the proper licenses and registrations were 
in place. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
Telecommunications Controlled by Mohammed 
------------------------------------------ 
 
6.  (S)  Mohammed, who has plenty to keep him busy through his 
control of the General Post and Telecommunications Committee, 
has major input over any telecomm or internet service.  Frequent 
USLO requests over the last two years to meet with the GPTC have 
been ignored by the Libyan government, even requests for 
meetings with senior U.S. officials and Congressional 
delegations.   Several U.S. companies are actively pursuing 
contracts to provide a much-needed upgrade to the local 
telecommunications network, but the Libyan government rejects 
any trade promotion activities for telecom through official 
government channels.  Based on Colonel Qadhafi's experience 
overthrowing King Idris and the recognized importance of 
controlling radio broadcasts in 1969, and the role of mobile 
phone networking during the 2006 Benghazi riots, the family 
would definitely want to preserve its strong control over the 
telecom sector. 
 
------------------------------------ 
New City Planned by Saadi 
------------------------------------- 
 
7.  (S)  Saadi is also branching out into infrastructure 
development.  His functionaries contacted USLO public affairs 
section for publications in Arabic language on economic and 
commercial issues.  Saadi's staff then notified USLO that he 
planned to establish "a new city in the west of the country, in 
the area between Zwara and the Libyan-Tunisian border.  The new 
city will be under the management and supervision of the 
Engineer al-Saadi al-Qadhafi."  As Saadi's staffers frame the 
interest, "he wants information on how the U.S. can help with 
this matter."   That general area of coastline has an island 
that has been slated for tourist development in the last couple 
years without any subsequent action, perhaps because a large oil 
processing facility mars the view from the island, and also 
because outside investors can not get liquor licenses for hotels 
populated by foreign tourists.  The Qadhafi family is already in 
the tourism business through the large percentage of ownership 
in the Bab Africa Corinthia Hotel.   Local business contacts 
claim the Qadhafi joint partnership with the Maltese Corinthia 
Group was the linchpin in acquiring prime real estate for the 
hotel venture.   Saadi also keeps busy with his soccer teams, 
the Olympic Committee and his miltary career, as noted in the 
Coke dispute, sometimes using troops under his control to impact 
business deals. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
Consumer Goods Distribution Controlled by Few Family Holding 
Groups 
------------------------------------------- 
 
8.  (C)  Food distribution is also reportedly controlled by only 
four or five politically-connected families.  There are no large 
western-style food markets in Libya.  There is small 
western-style market in Tripoli and some smaller shops in the 
city that carry more imported items, but most of the 
neighborhood shops go to the distribution warehouses controlled 
by the people with strong government ties.   The consumer 
products distribution are largely controlled by three merchants, 
including the Husni Bey Group, a diversified holding company 
that runs a range of operations under the direction of Husni 
Bey's children.  Bey does not characterize his company as 
politically well-connected, but has learned to expand operations 
through key alliances and he knows how to work the system to his 
benefit.   More importantly, he knows how to recover when his 
businesses get caught up in the financial interests of the more 
connected political elite.  The Akida Group, run by the Akak 
family, is rumored to have close ties to the ruling regime and 
it runs a virtual monopoly over air conditioning equipment, 
heating units, and small appliances as the local LG agent. 
 
9.  (C)  The government attempts during the 80s to instigate 
large socialist-style department stores failed; the shells of 
the state enterprises sit empty around Tripoli and other Libyan 
cities.  (At least one is rumored to soon be rehabilitated as a 
modern shopping mall for privately owned stores.)  Starting in 
the mid 90s, people were once again allowed to open small 
businesses.  During Eid holidays, Libyan families buy new 
clothing to wear during the celebration and treat children to 
toys and sweets from small stores.  The men tend to wear 
traditional embroidered wool robes produced locally or in Egypt 
or Syria, while women may indulge in new fashions imported from 
European or Asian manufacturers.  During the January 2006 Eid, 
local women complained that the clothing variety available in 
the local shops was limited.  Rumors circulating in Tripoli 
claimed that Qadhafi's second wife, as well as his daughter 
Aisha, own or have financial interests in many of the new 
clothing stores opened in the post-sanctions era.  The rumors 
also say that Qadhafi's wife told the customs authorities to 
release only the shipments consigned to her stores.  The other 
clothing stores did not get their shipments cleared from customs 
until after the holiday shopping spree had ended.  Most of the 
garments in local stores are imported from China, Malaysia and 
India.   Small boutiques have a limited supply of expensive 
goods imported from Europe, and these enterprises in particular 
seem to have the financial backing of people with strong ties to 
the ruling elite. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
Qadhafi Incorporated Lifestyle 
------------------------------------------ 
 
10.  (C)  Qadhafi himself keeps a low profile in Tripoli.  The 
Bab al-Azizia compound has facilities for banquets and other 
public events, but it is not lavish in any way compared with the 
ostentation of the Gulf oil state families or Hariri clan. 
Qadhafi's wife travels by chartered jet in Libya, with a 
motorcade of Mercedes waiting to pick her up at the airport and 
take her to the destination, but her movements are limited and 
discrete.  She hosted a banquet for diplomatic women in the Bab 
al-Azizia compound on the occasion of the al-Fatah (Revolution) 
holiday in September that was festive but not extravagant. 
Since the family keeps a tight control on the media and most of 
the Qadhafi children spending excesses take place outside Libya, 
there is not much public reaction to the coffers of Qadhafi Inc. 
 Compared to egregious pillaging of State coffers elsewhere in 
Africa, or the lavish spending of Gulf Arabs, the Libyans don't 
see much to complain about in their leader's lifestyle, as long 
as he does a good job of making sure other people get a piece of 
the pie. And when Libyans do complain, they are removed from 
access to financial rewards. 
 
------------- 
Comment 
------------- 
 
11.  (S)   The financial interests of Qadhafi and his key allies 
present opportunites and challenges for reform efforts in Libya. 
 At a minimum, it seems safe to say that reform will have its 
ups and downs over the long-term, as individual, regime and 
national interests come into play.   If and when foreign 
publications do become available in Libya, there will be a 
financial gain for Saif.   At the same time, the family will 
still have control over monitoring what information is released 
to the public.  Over the long term, demand for more outside 
information would inevitably create pressure for open access and 
more press freedom.    Similarly, Libya has a stated commitment 
to moving forward with WTO accession and joining international 
financial organizations.  But it is doing so on its own 
timetable, a slow timetable.   Reported septel, the General 
People's Congress just passed in April 2006 new agency and 
representation rules that run counter to WTO principles.  While 
the General General People's Committee for Economy and Trade has 
working groups actively revising legislation to prepare for WTO 
accession, it will take some time to reconcile all the different 
structures of the Jamahiriya government (translation: "State of 
the Masses").   Libyan government officials have been telling 
P/E Chief for 10 months that the WTO accession will be presented 
in Geneva "in a few weeks, that only the translation has to be 
finished."    Institutional development is very primitive and 
the Libyans have a cultural and social preference for elements 
of distributive economy, placing great value on financial 
rewards that flow from affiliation with regime leadership, 
security services etc.   There was a shipment of BMWs delivered 
to the government in early 2006, for example, and it seems 
likely that the young men driving them around town got the 
vehicles "distributed" through their affilation with different 
government entities.    With regard to reform partnership 
efforts, there are the greatest opportunities to promote 
positive change by engaging in the Central Bank's efforts to 
establish banking controls and standards, partnering with the 
General People's Committee for Manpower and Training on civil 
service reform, and cooperating with the General People's 
Committee for Economy and Trade in its WTO accession efforts. 
 
BERRY 
GOLDRICH 

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