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How dictators stash their cash 101: Qaddafi, Mubarak, and others

Muammar Qaddafi and Hosni Mubarak are both said to be worth billions of dollars. 'Hiding money is not rocket science,' says Jeffrey Robinson, author of a money laundering exposé.

By Staff writer / February 25, 2011

Libya's leader Muammar Qaddafi speaks on national television from Tripoli in this Feb. 22 still image taken from video.

Libyan State Television/Reuters

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The US Embassy of Tripoli called it "Qaddafi Incorporated" – the Libyan family's "strong interests in the oil and gas sector, telecommunications, infrastructure development, hotels, media distribution, and consumer goods distribution."

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It is also a system where Muammar Qaddafi “often speaks out publicly against government corruption” while at the same time distributing millions of dollars to politically connected Libyans, and giving his family and other elite "direct access to lucrative business deals," according to the leaked May 2006 cable obtained by WikiLeaks. Qaddafi reportedly pocketed some for himself, with experts seeing a multibillion-dollar gap between Libyan oil revenues and government spending.

"Compared to egregious pillaging of State coffers elsewhere in Africa, or the lavish spending of Gulf Arabs, the Libyans don’t see much to complain about in their leader’s lifestyle, as long as he does a good job of making sure other people get a piece of the pie," the cable says.

Other populaces have indeed complained about their leaders' lavish spending, as did Egyptians seeking the return of billions allegedly pilfered from their state. During his 30-year-rule, Hosni Mubarak and his family reportedly amassed a fortune estimated up to $70 billion. Dictators build their personal wealth, analysts say, typically through embezzlement, bribes, and nepotism.

According to a January report (pdf) from the Washington-based watchdog Global Financial Integrity, $6.4 billion in illicit funds flowed out of Egypt annually from 2000 to 2008. That ranks it behind 20 other nations in terms of illicit outflows. Leading the list is China, which reportedly lost $242 billion annually in illicit financial flows from 2000 to 2008. Trade mispricing accounted for an average of 54.7 percent of cumulative illicit flows from developing countries over the period.

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