More Libyan business flowing to Joe Sammut

Gaddafi treasure hunters filing competing claims for billions hidden in South Africa

Libyan businessmen fleeing turmoil in their country have found ‘asylum’ at the Mosta offices of chartered accountant Joe Sammut, says the specialist intelligence newspaper Maghreb Confidential.

Initially making a name for himself by easing the way for transactions carried out by Muammar Gaddafi’s family before his regime collapsed, Sammut houses the operations of Sealandair Energy International, an oil trading concern owned by Tunisian brothers Ghazi Mellouli and Maher Mellouli that was highly active in Libya’s oil market.

Maher Mellouli subsequently found himself targeted by the American investigative firm Command Global Services (CGS) that was tasked by a Libyan magistrate to hunt down a reported $30-$80 billion in diamonds, gold and cash stashed around the world by Gaddafi.

Among Libyan firms which have found safety in Sammut’s office are Mabco Holding, which operates in the real estate and tourism sectors, run by businessman Jalal Baayou, and Ferasa International Trading & Construction, which is owned by Zuhir Abdusalam Almuntasar who works in the oil services trade.

Others are more discreet firms like Lamar International Group, headed by Naser al Jerrari), Jawal, headed by Abdulmoneim Abulghasseim, and West Tripoli and Tripoli Stone Company. 

Command Global Services was said to have focused attention on Tunisian businessman Ghazi Mellouli and his brother Maher, reportedly having been close to the Gaddafi regime and particularly to Mohamed Giloushi, chief-of-staff of former prime minister Baghdadi Mahmoudi. An oil trading operation run by the two brothers, Sealandair Energy International, was allegedly operated on behalf of the regime. Maher Mellouli is registered as a 9.9% owner of the company. The rest is held by Best Inter Ltd, a holding company for both Sealandair and Gencon International.

A request for comment from Sammut had not yet been answered by the time of going to print.

The internationally recognised Libyan government headed by Abdullah al Thani in Tobruk has now appointed a new company to hunt down assets hidden by Gaddafi. 

Eric Goaied’s Washington African Consulting Group (WACG) is being paid $50,000 per month by an organization called “The National Board for the Following Up and Recovery of Libyan Looted and Disguised Funds”.

According to disclosure papers filed with the United States’ Foreign Agents Registration Unit (FARA), the Goaied team intends keeping any US-based assets inside the United States instead of withdrawing them into Libya – a bargaining chip for Al Thani to curry US support of his government.

At the other end of the world, the Maltese-based Sam Serj is claiming for itself the mission to take back $179 billion being kept in South African banks, properties, and also in storage facilities.

Goaied has dismissed Sam Serj – led by chief executive Taha Buishi – as pretenders to the Libyan government’s claims, formalising his allegations in an affidavit submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa.

According to the Sunday Independent of South Africa, Mohammed Tag from Libya’s asset recovery board confirmed that WACG was the only company mandated by the Libyan government to act on its behalf. Tag rejected Sam Serj, which has also claimed legitimacy and has met President Jacob Zuma and other cabinet ministers. He said the firm had a mandate relating to one bank account in South Africa but the mandate had expired.

Tag alleged that the documents Sam Serj had presented to the South African government were counterfeit and false. “It is an attempt to divert Libyan assets to their own benefit,” he said. 

However, Taha Buishi, Sam Serj chief executive, maintained his company had the mandate of the Libyan government. “I will not comment on what Erik Goaied and Tag are saying about our authorisation. Very soon everyone will know who the official authorised body is,” Buishi said. 

He said his firm had contracted a Pretoria-based law firm to manage its affairs in South Africa. 

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