Three of former Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s henchmen have been found living comfortably in Britain despite being wanted in Tripoli for allegedly embezzling millions from the war torn state.
The three men feature on a list of former regime figures linked to the bloody suppression of the Libyan uprising and are wanted by prosecutors in Tripoli for allegedly fleeing the country with stolen state assets in 2011.
BuzzFeed News says the men have been given a safe haven in the UK despite standing accused of laundering millions of pounds through British banks and property deals.
The news website’s investigation found General Ahmed Mahmoud Azwai, who is suspected of laundering millions through properties in the Home Counties via a network of offshore companies, is now living in an affluent part of Surrey.
Azwai was responsible for maintaining Gaddafi’s Scud-B missile stockpile, which the dictator unleashed on protesters in the dying days of the regime.
He denied stealing from the state and did not respond to questions about his role in Gaddafi’s military.
Brigadier Guima Elmaarfi, who now lives in a large house in southwest London, is suspected of escaping Libya with £14 million ($18.3 million) and is wanted for allegedly laundering stolen assets in the UK.
Elmaarfi commanded a military brigade in the town of Tarhuna and helped round up recruits “to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Libya and the great chief Gaddafi.”
Elmaarfi categorically denied all the allegations in an interview at his home, insisting he was struggling financially after leaving Libya empty-handed.
His son, who fled with him to Britain, was jailed two years ago for stabbing a teenager with a kitchen knife and carving his initial into the abdomen of a man who had been beaten unconscious.
BuzzFeed says it has been banned from naming the third member of the Gaddafi regime found hiding out in Britain, after he hired law firm Mischon de Reya and top QCs Dinah Rose and Monica Carss-Frisk to obtain a gagging order from the High Court on Monday.
The injunction is reportedly so restrictive it is not even possible to disclose the grounds on which it was made.
Lawyers and investigators acting for the Libyan state say the three former officials are among 240 regime figures suspected of hiding stolen assets worth £7.6 billion ($10 billion) in the UK.
Documents reveal the Libyan Transitional Government wrote to Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in 2012 asking for assistance in recovering the money allegedly “obtained through corrupt or illegal means.”
But they say British authorities have done nothing to help them investigate, instead allowing all three men to settle in Britain and granting Elmaarfi and Azwai political asylum.
The revelations raise questions about the government’s repeated pledges to get tough on money laundering.
Since NATO’s intervention in 2011, Libya has descended into chaos with an economy in deep recession and oil revenues tumbling.
Three rival government factions are still struggling for control of a nation gripped by war.