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Swiss tighten screws on Gaddafi funds

The Swiss governments wants to stop funds reaching Gaddafi

(Reuters)

Switzerland has toughened its sanctions against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and his clan, blocking movement of any funds that could profit them.

Friday’s decision by the cabinet brings Switzerland in line with United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed against Libyan officials on February 16. These include an arms embargo, a travel ban on 16 named individuals and financial sanctions against six people, including Gaddafi.

Switzerland had already frozen assets belonging to 29 Libyan individuals, but in new measures announced on Friday, all financial transactions benefiting them are also banned.

The Swiss move may have implications for the Libyan oil concern Tamoil which has an extensive network of petrol stations in Switzerland, and the Collombey refinery in canton Valais. Both are part of the Dutch-based Oilinvest group, which belongs to the Libyan Investment Agency (LIA).

Although the LIA belongs to the Libyan state and its purpose is to invest money for the good of the country as a whole, it is widely believed to be controlled by Gaddafi and the receipts used by his regime.  

While Tamoil is not directly mentioned in UN’s sanctions resolution, it will not have the right to carry out transactions that could enrich anyone on Switzerland’s blacklist of 29 Libyans.

When asked about the measure's effect on Tamoil, government spokesman André Simonazzi said: "With each transaction for Tamoil the question gets raised - where's the money going? It's got to be investigated who would profit."

He said it was up to banks and financial institutions to now run checks on money movements. In the meantime, Tamoil’s activities in Switzerland are not affected.

Tamoil spokesman Laurent Paoliello told Reuters on Friday the company would not be impacted by the new measures.

"The decision by the cabinet confirmed that Tamoil Switzerland is a Swiss company like any other and we can continue to work normally," he said. "It showed that we were neither affected by the UN sanctions nor by the Swiss resolution."

Cutting off resources

The Swiss cabinet said the UN's travel ban and arms embargo would be enforced "pragmatically".

The cabinet ruled that as well as the ban on moving funds for those on its blacklist, the 29 named individuals could not benefit "directly or indirectly from economic resources".

“Switzerland wants to prevent any financial support for Moammar Gaddafi and his clan,” said a statement by the cabinet. 

The cabinet noted that companies fully or indirectly controlled by the Libyan state were not affected by the measures as they had not been mentioned in the UN sanctions.

However earlier this week Carlo Sommaruga, a centre-left Social Democrat parliamentarian, called for Tamoil transactions to be frozen straight away – independently of the UN resolution.

Libyan uprising

After uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, opponents of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi began protesting on February 15.

Opponents seized a number of cities. Gaddafi threatened bloody reprisals, with his supporters attacking protestors and rebel strongholds.

Various ministers and ambassadors of the Gaddafi regime have switched their allegiance.

The opposition Libyan human rights league has put the total death toll at 6,000. Observers say around 170,000 people have fled Libya.

The International Criminal Court has opened a probe into crimes against humanity by Libyan officials.

The UN General Assembly has suspended Libya's membership of the UN Human Rights Council.

Many countries, led by Switzerland, have frozen assets held by Gaddafi and his clan.

The uprising has knocked out nearly 50% its 1.6 million barrels of oil per day output, the bedrock of its economy.

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swissinfo.ch and agencies

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