Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s regime sold about 20 per cent of the country’s gold reserves to cover salaries, as he struggled to hold onto power during the final months of the civil war, the new governor of Libya’s central bank said on September 8. Qassim Azzuz also said that none of the bank’s roughly $115 billion in assets “went missing or were stolen” during the six months of fighting. That figure, however, did not include money the Qaddafi family is believed to have in hiding outside the banking sector, he said.
The sale in April of 29 tons of the roughly 145 tons of gold Libya is believed to have in reserve reflects the challenges Qaddafi confronted as he struggled to crush what began as a mass uprising in the east and quickly mushroomed into a full-blown civil war. Brutal assaults on the country’s civilian population by forces loyal to the Libyan strongman resulted in sweeping international sanctions and NATO airstrikes.
The sanctions froze Libya’s massive foreign assets, which stand at about 110 per cent of GDP, according to several analysts, and had many speculating that Qaddafi was either raiding the central bank’s coffers or selling gold to pay troops that included foreign mercenaries.