By Sami Redwan, Economics and Business Commentator, Tripoli
Things are uncertain at the moment, even by Libya’s standards. Key terminals in Libya’s eastern and western oil facilities have been held hostage for years, with oil production at a minimum. Oil exports, on which the economy sorely relies, are at a virtual standstill. The country’s liquidity crisis is ongoing. Roads, hospitals and other key infrastructure are in desperate need of upgrading. Kidnappings are rife.
In most countries, any one of these problems would be cause for major concern. In Libya, we have to contend with all of them at the same time.
Amidst these grey clouds, however, some rays of sunshine are beginning to emerge on the horizon. The National Oil Corporation has recently retaken the eastern oil facilities and terminals, and export of crude oil is resuming. And the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) is making great strides in its efforts to recover funds that our country badly needs.
In recent days the LIA announced it has recouped over $50 million in cash from Cornhill Capital, following a three-year battle with the investment fund.
The LIA originally invested $100 million in Cornhill. Poor management of these funds led to their value being cut nearly in half, to $54 million. When the LIA asked for what remained of its investment to be returned in 2013 Cornhill refused, before finally being forced to comply with judicial and administrative rulings to hand over the funds in August this year, after three years of resistance.
The LIA has also announced the recovery of a further $73 million from the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers, having pursued recovery of the money since 2008.
Under the supervision of the newly-reformed Litigation Committee, the LIA is also forging ahead in its big-ticket litigations against Goldman Sachs, Société Générale, Palladyne, and a few other smaller cases.
The LIA accuses Goldman of losing $1.2 billion through improper transactions done during the days of the Gaddafi regime. Separately, the fund accuses Société Générale of using fraudulent and corrupt schemes to enter the LIA into $2.1 billion of risky investments. The LIA’s Chairman, AbdulMagid Breish, brought these cases back in early 2014.
It is heartening to see that we are starting to see the results of the LIA’s legal efforts.
In further good news, relations between the Tripoli and Tobruk LIAs seem to have improved since the departure of Hassan Bouhadi, former head of the parallel Tobruk LIA, last month. Mr Breish and the new head of the Tobruk operation, Fawzi Omran Farkash, are reportedly in ongoing discussions to form a single, united Board of Directors. This would be an excellent step forward.
The LIA’s successes in these multi-million dollar litigations must to be recognised and applauded. They could not come at a more critical period for Libya. At a time when so much needs to be done to bring our country back from the brink, it is a timely reminder of what can be accomplished when the people of Libya are put first.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Libya Observer