Police Arrest Ex-CEO of Bank That Collects Libya’s Oil Wealth
(Bloomberg) -- Police in Tripoli arrested the former chief executive officer of Libyan Foreign Bank on Monday, two Libyan security and judicial officials said, following a power struggle at the top of the institution that gathers the country’s oil revenues and has faced allegations of fraud.
Mohamed bin Youssef was taken into custody on the orders of the state prosecutor who’s investigating him for squandering funds and mismanaging the bank’s assets, an official at the Interior Ministry told Bloomberg.
The move comes as oil revenues are set to rise after this month’s partial lifting of a blockade of energy facilities by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar shut crude production in January to demand a fairer distribution of income between feuding administrations. He has struck a deal with the deputy head of the internationally recognized government in Tripoli to open some installations, but it doesn’t have the backing of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj or the central bank. As yet there’s no agreement on how future oil income will be collected and distributed.
Leadership of the Libyan Foreign Bank has been contested since a 2018 decision by the central bank, which wholly owns the institution, to dismiss Bin Youssef. LFB’s chairman, Mohammed Najib al Jamal, accused him of overseeing risky investments that cost the bank $1.6 billion and falsifying profits.
“The budgets were written up in contradiction of reality,” al Jamal said in an interview. Bin Youssef wasn’t available for comment, but in an interview with Libyan media before his arrest said he remained the CEO on the bank’s registry.
Bin Youssef had attempted to enter the bank earlier this month to resume his job, having won an administrative court ruling last year that overturned his dismissal. But prosecutors had already sought his arrest in March for alleged fraud, and ordered his detention.
It wasn’t clear whether his attempt to reassert leadership was triggered by the resumption of oil production.
The dispute illustrates the difficulties healing turmoil that has wracked the nation since a NATO-backed revolt ousted leader Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011.
“The current context where you have one person who’s contending he has a legal mandate to run the bank, and the other contending that he does not, the fact that both people can do that is illustrative of the broader malaise,” said Tim Eaton, a senior research fellow with Chatham House who focuses on Libya.
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