Gaddafi feud burst Coca-Cola's bubble: report

AFP , Friday 4 Mar 2011

Soda giant's 2005 Libya expansion stymied by brutal family dispute, according to WikiLeaks

When US soft drink giant Coca-Cola moved into Libya in 2005, it found itself in the middle of a brutal feud between rival members of Moammar Gaddafi's all-powerful family, a report said Thursday.

Coca-Cola had barely set up shop in the North African country before the local bottling company was embroiled in a vicious struggle between two of Gaddafi's sons, the New York Times reported, quoting a US diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks.

The spat was seen as evidence of how a single ruling family -- now in a battle for survival against rebel forces controlling swaths of the country -- could extend its tentacles deep into the economy.

Coca-Cola's investment was part of a rapidly growing response to Libya's opening up, following the 2003 decision to abandon a nuclear weapons program. But instead of helping the company put down roots, Mutassim and Mohammed Gaddafi began squabbling over who would control the bottling plant.

Two weeks after it opened, a militia run by Mutassim took over the Tripoli building, the Times quoted the cable as saying. Production stopped.

Further rubbing in their message, agents loyal to Mutassim kidnapped one of Mohammed's cousins and put him in the trunk of a car, the report said.

The feud ended when Gaddafi's daughter Aisha brokered a deal, the report said.

A US embassy official was told by one witness of the feud, the cable said, that "although he had heard stories about doing business in Libya, he never imagined that what transpired was still possible here. 'You know the movie, 'The Godfather'? We've been living it for the last few months'."

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