Spain freezes Gaddafi assets

AFP, Reuters, Wednesday 2 Mar 2011

Holdings include 7,000 hectare property on Costa del Sol

Spain announced Wednesday it was freezing assets owned by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi's regime, including a vast tract of land on the Costa del Sol.

The decision tightens a global financial chokehold on Gaddafi's regime, its assets already blocked in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Britain, Austria and Germany.

"We will proceed with the embargo or freezing of Gaddafi's assets in Spain," a government spokesman said.

Spain's Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez announced the decision to journalists as she accompanied Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on a flight to Tunisia, said the spokesman, who was present.

Zapatero will be the first Western leader to visit Tunisia since the ouster of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia January 14 in the face of an uprising against his 23-year rule.

The Libyan regime's assets in Spain include a 7,065-hectare (17,450-acre) property on the Costa del Sol in Andalucia, acquired in 1995 by the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank, which is owned in turn by Libya's central bank.

The purchase of the property known as La Resinera reportedly made the Libyan regime one of the main land-owners on the Costa del Sol.

Libyan Arab Foreign Bank had proposed in December a plan to build an 18-hole golf course and about 2,000 homes on the land, a regional government spokesman for Andalucia said.

A similar project was planned in 2007 but did not win approval from the Andalucian authorities.

Gaddafi made an official visit to Spain at the end of 2007 when he travelled to Malaga, capital of the Costa del Sol and a haven for tourists and the mega-rich.

The US embassy in Madrid sent a confidential cable describing the more colourful details of Gaddafi's visit including his motorcade of more than 50 vehicles, butchers providing fresh meat for his banquets and tents staked on the grounds of his accommodations.

On one day of the visit Gaddafi had been scheduled to tour historic Islamic sites in the Andalucia region or go hunting in the Sierra Nevada, according to the cable published by WikiLeaks.

"However, unexpectedly, he left Seville on Sunday to visit Marbella on the coast, where he reportedly enjoyed a flamenco performance (and paid an extravagant amount to have the performers give a repeat performance later in Madrid)," the cable said.

Former Spanish premier Jose Maria Aznar was the first Western leader to visit Tripoli after the lifting of UN anti-terrorism sanctions in September 2003. Spain has tightened its links with Libya since then, notably in energy and construction industries.

Also on Wednesday, the Bank of Italy ordered financial institutions to report any suspicious movements in accounts held by members of the family of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi or his government.

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