Qaddafi's assets include luxury homes around world
Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi and his family own expensive real estate in London, New Jersey, and around the globe
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Winnington Close is a quiet, leafy cul de sac in one of London's most exclusive neighborhoods, Hampstead Garden. It has seven stately brick homes, most with a Mercedes or two in the driveway.
This kind of luxury does not come easy in London, and it does not come cheap. Take Number 7 Winnington Close, for example. With eight suite-style bedrooms, a marble foyer, a swimming pool and jacuzzi and a private movie theater.
The Winnington Close home last sold for a reported $16 million, to a company based in the British Virgin Islands. But locals know it as the home of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the second son of Muammar Qaddafi, and until not long ago, his heir apparent.
A neighbor who did not wish to be identified said members of the Qaddafi family used the house only occasionally, but when they did, "we all felt safe because there were always two armor-plated black Mercedes parked outside."
Now, Number 7 Winnington Close is being guarded in a different way, and it is occupied constantly. Roughly half a dozen Libyan nationals seized the house in early March—they claim they entered through an open window—and they say they are looking after the house for what they say are its rightful owners: the Libyan people.
While squatters have taken over the mansion in London, it isnt clear whether that has happened at other Qaddafi properties. European and U.S. authorities have frozen tens of billions in Libyan assets, but tracing those assets is no easy task.
Asked how long they are prepared to stay in the London house, Tripoli native Akbar ben Ramadan, who normally works as a motor vehicle inspector and part-time radio host in Manchester, England, says, "as long as it takes."
That may sound easy given the home's luxury features (the movie theater is reportedly lined with suede leather), the squatters insist they are not taking advantage of their posh surroundings.
Even the jacuzzi stays turned off, "to save electricity for the Libyan people," says Belkasen Alghilyni, who also refers to himself as "Billy." Members of the group bristle at the idea that some are more interested in the features of the home than they are in the group's cause.
The home's multi-million dollar price tag "would be enough to refurbish three or four schools" in Libya, ben Ramadan says.
The ultimate fate of the home is unclear, of course. Because of the ownership structure, it is not even a given that it is covered by a global freeze on some $40 billion of assets controlled by the Qaddafi regime.