Gaddafi’s brother-in-law stole money for Sierra Leone ferry, stashed it in Malta

A brother-in-law of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi siphoned off US$1.4 million in money intended for the purchase of a new ferry in Sierra Leone and stashed it away in a Maltese bank account, an investigation by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project has found.

It was in 2006 that a Libyan state investment fund allocated US$4 million for a second addition to a ferry line in Sierra Leone that formed part of Gaddafi’s pan-African investment plan and his brother-in-law, Abdusalam Abulghasem Abughila, tasked himself with the purchase.

But instead of purchasing a new ferry, the OCCRP has found Abughila creamed US$1.4 million from the US$4 million allocated to its purchase, stashed it in his personal Maltese bank account and used the balance to purchase an old, substandard ferry through his own Panamanian offshore company.

Libya had already been providing one ferry for the Sierra Leone project since 2004.

It was operated by Afrimpex Navigation Co. Ltd., the local subsidiary of a Maltese company of the same name, which Abughila at the time controlled.

That company is still registered in Malta and is owned by Afrimpex Ltd, with a minor shareholding being held by the Micawber Hotel company of South Africa.

Its directors are three Libyan nationals but Abughila does not feature among them.

Afrimpex is ultimately owned by the Libyan Arab African  Investment Company with, again, a minor shareholding belonging to Micawber.

Abughila in 2008 requested Libyan African Investment Portfolio, which Gaddafi set up for his African investment designs, to purchase a second ferry in order to meet growing demand for the line’s services.

The OCCRP found that LAIP agreed to invest US$4 million through its subsidiary, Libyan African Investment Company, for the purpose and to also become Abughila’s 25% partner in a new version of Afrimpex he established in Belgium.

The Belgian Afrimpex was to procure and operate the ferry and pay 60% of annual net profits back to LAIP, which retained the ferry’s ownership.

But, the OCCRP reports, the US$4 million for the ferry was instead deposited into Abughila’s personal Maltese bank account and not into an Afrimpex account.

Documents obtained by the OCCRP and an LAIP court filing in Belgium show the supposed US$4 million ferry was actually purchased through Abughila’s Panamanian company for just US$2.6 million.

One payment was made through his personal Maltese bank account and the other was made through his Panamanian company.

Abughila then struck an agreement for the Malta-registered Afrimpex Navigation Co Ltd to lease the ferry from his Panamanian company, Almuhit, for US$120,000 a year from 2010 to 2014.

So not only is Abughila alleged to have taken US$1.4 million of the Libya government’s money earmarked for the ferry’s purchase and placed it in his Maltese bank account, but he also arranged for his offshore company to own the vessel and reap further profits by leasing it back to the Malta-registered Afrimpex.

Abughila is also accused of failing to repay a US$7-million loan from a state fund but the lasting confusion in the wake of Libya’s civil war and arguments over who controls Libyan state investments have made recuperating the stolen funds a tall order.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Stories

GSSE athletes given Maltese passports despite being permanently based abroad
Foreign professional sports players contracted to represent Malta in
Joseph Muscat got Michelle her state-funded chauffeurs when he was in office
It seems Prime Minister Robert Abela did not lie

Our Awards and Media Partners

Award logo Award logo Award logo