In line with UN sanctions, Malta froze €377 million in Libyan government assets of which €86 million belonged to the Gaddafi family or entities in which they were majority stakeholders.

The amount was made public for the first time yesterday in an official government statement.

The government said €291 million belonged to Libyan companies hit by UN and EU sanctions and the rest to the Gaddafi family or companies in which the family had a majority shareholding.

The frozen assets were in euro and other unspecified currencies and the government said other assets could still be found.

“The government is doing its best to enable the Libyan people to use these assets as soon as possible,” the statement said.

The government yesterday asked the chairman of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development to call a meeting to discuss the latest developments in Libya. A date has still to be set but Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi is expected to attend the meeting.

The Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company Ltd (Lafico), a subsidiary of the Libyan Investment Authority, has business interests in Malta, including investments in Corinthia, Vivaldi and Milano Due hotels, Medavia and Medelec.

LIA is the Libyan government’s investment arm and one of the state companies hit by UN and EU sanctions. It holds shares in many multinational companies, including Italy’s Unicredit Bank and energy provider ENI and Siemens.

The regime is believed to have had €38 billion in cash and assets in Europe and the US.

News of the Gaddafi regime’s assets in Malta coincided with international efforts under way to unfreeze substantial amounts of money and transfer them to the National Transitional Council.

The international discussion on the release of frozen Libyan assets to the NTC comes at a time when rebels are still searching for Muammar Gaddafi and his family.

Rebel efforts continued yesterday to flush out pockets of resistance in the Libyan capital when they were involved in an intensive shootout with Col Gaddafi loyalists on the grounds of the Corinthia hotel.

A hotel spokesman said no injuries to workers and guests were reported and the situation was brought under control within a couple of minutes by the rebel contingent guarding the hotel.

According to Luke Harding, a journalist with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the gun battle last between five and 10 minutes and bullet marks could be seen on some of the walls.

The skirmish happened sometime after 2 p.m. and is believed to have been triggered by a small group of Col Gaddafi loyalists who entered the Corinthia grounds after splitting from a larger group that was concentrated in the nearby Marriott hotel. Sources said that when the loyalists entered the Corinthia grounds they were immediately attacked by the rebels.

The hotel is currently home to scores of journalists covering the conflict and foreign nationals, including Maltese, who are preparing to leave the Libyan capital.

Third evacuation attempt

The Maltese-chartered cargo ship Triva I is expected to berth in Tripoli today as foreign and Maltese nationals await to be evacuated from the Libyan capital.

Sources said “a window of opportunity” existed to carry out the evacuation after a first attempt on Sunday and a second on Wednesday had to be abandoned when the vessel was caught in crossfire as it tried to dock.

Since Sunday, the ship remained in open sea off the Libyan coast but it briefly returned to Malta yesterday for refuelling and departed soon after.

Foreign nationals are gathered at the Corinthia hotel waiting to be evacuated, although sources said the relative ease with which rebels overran Tripoli made it unlikely Malta would experience the same influx of evacuees as it did at the start of the conflict.

ksansone@timesofmalta.com

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