Freezing assets of dictators is first step in punishment


Civil war-torn Libya is the rich- est country in Africa because of its oil, and the wealth of the naton’s embattled tyrant, Moammar Gadhafi, and his children prove it. Estimates of the Gadhafi family’s worth range from $82 billion — yes, billion — to $130 billion. How could a colonel in the army amass such a fortune? By stealing it from his people, which is why the international community has moved quickly to freeze the Gadhafi clan’s assets.

According to the British newspaper The Daily Mail, the United States has seized $30 billion of their investments, while Canada has frozen $2.4 billion, Austria, $1.7 billion and Britain, $1 billion. Switzerland, long the banking haven for ill-gotten gains, was one of the first countries to put a hold on the assets.

A spokeman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry said on Feb. 24, “To pre-empt any misuse of state funds, the cabinet today decided to block all assets in Switzerland belonging to Moammar Gadhafi and his entourage with immediate effect. The sale of the property of these persons — in particular real estate — or disposing of it in any way is forbidden as of now.”

The move by nations around the world against the brutal dicatator comes on the heels of similar action against ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose family fortune is estimated at $70 billion, according to the British newspaper, The Guardian. Much of wealth is in Britain and in Swiss banks, or tied up in real estate in London, New York, Los Angeles and along expensive tracts of the Red Sea coast.

“According to a report last year in the Arabic newspaper Al Khabar, Mubarak has properties in Manhattan and exclusive Beverly Hills addresses on Rodeo Drive,” the newspaper reported. “His sons, Gamal and Alaa, are also billionaires. A protest outside Gamal’s ostentatious home at 28 Wilton Place in Belgravia, central London, highlighted the family’s appetite for western trophy assets.”

Another deposed Arab tyrant whose assets are also being frozen is Zine El Abidine Ben AliZine Ben Ali.

The former president of Tunisia — the popular uprising in that country sparked the revolution that is now spreading through the Middle East — has a fortune estimated at over $5 billion. There are reports that when he and his family fled the capital, Tunis, for Saudi Arabia, they had gold bullion, cash and jewels aboard the aircraft. Such criminality becomes all the more egregious when you consider that Algeria is the poorest country in the world.

Gadhafi, Mubarak, Ben Ali and all the other despots who have enriched themselves at the expense of their people deserve to not only be deprived of their fortunes, but be forced to answer before the International Criminal Court.

Blood on hands

They have blood on their hands, and blood money in their bank accounts.

But it isn’t just these immoral leaders who must be called to account. What about the United States and other nations that did not blink an eye when the billions were being funneled into their banks or being used to buy up prime real estate?

To claim ignorance about the source of the money is to insult the intelligence of fair-minded people.

According to the Daily Mail, the Gadhafi family assets include an enormous portfolio of properties in London, including the West End theater and shopping district, as well as shares in Pearson, the owner of the Financial Times and Penguin Books.

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