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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And the home, which would represent a tiny fraction of Libya's holdings, may be one of the simpler properties to unwind. Most of the assets can't be seized by squatters.Skip to next paragraph
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In London alone, Libya's sovereign weath fund—the Libyan Investment Authority—owns some pricey and high profile real estate, including Portman House, a 150,000 square foot office building that serves as the British headquarters of oil giant ConocoPhillips. The Libyan Investment Authority bought the building in 2009 for a reported $250 million.
Another office building, 14 Cornhill Street, proudly overlooks the Bank of England in the heart of London's financial district.
Critics say the Libyan Investment Authority, which is believed to control as much as $70 billion in assets, is the personal piggy bank for the Qaddafi family.
At the anti-corruption watchdog group Global Witness, they say Libya's situation is all-too-typical of regimes that are rich in resources like oil. And the group says Western governments that are now freezing assets were in many ways complicit, since much of the financing could not be completed without the help of institutions in places like the U.S. and Great Britain.
"There's a pinstripe army of lawyers, bankers and accountants," says Robert Palmer, who heads Global Witness' kleptocracy campaign.
Despite high-profile efforts to curb global corruption, including an anti-kleptocracy initiative launched by the U.S. Justice Department last year, Palmer points out that it is still legal in nearly every state to set up a corporation without identifying who is behind it.
And a Senate investigation last year found significant gaps in U.S. anti-money laundering laws. For example, the investigation found some foreign leaders funneling assets into the U.S. through attorney-client accounts, which are subject to less scrutiny than typical bank accounts.
But some are less concerned about where the money comes from.
Abramsohn says London has become an essential place for the rich and powerful to own property, thanks to its status as a global center of finance and culture.
In addition to the Qaddafis, Gamal Mubarak, the son of the deposed Egyptian president, reportedly own a home in London's super-rich Belgravia section, though a woman who answered an intercom at the home would only say it is a "private residence" and that Mubarak does not live there.
Abramsohn says many buyers, including world leaders and their families, do buy property in their own name. More often, he says, they will purchase it through an offshore corporation, both for "tax efficiency" and anonymity. And Abramsohn says people in his business know not to ask too many questions.
"Who are we to judge," he says.