The two Libyan Investment Authorities (LIA) Board of Directors (east and west) are about to unite in one board expected to take shape next week. This happened after the assignment of a new LIA board of directors by the internationally recognized Presidential Council on August 13.

The two Libyan Investment Authorities (LIA) Board of Directors (east and west) are about to unite in one board expected to take shape next week. This happened after the assignment of a new LIA board of directors by the internationally recognized Presidential Council on August 13.

Yet the two boards consider this decision as legally invalid and has pushed them to intensify meetings in the United Arab Emirates, Cairo or more recently in Malta, to put an end to the current LIA division. Libya is said to have 550 investment portfolios including securities, real estate and oil projects and the total estimated value is US $67 billion. However, this is inaccurate according to the Chairman of the Libyan Foreign Investment Company, Fawzi Firkash.

Fawzi Firkash, does LIA’s unification come too late?

The later we are the greater the threat will be. In fact, there were previous efforts, but these were disrupted by the disputes between the LIA Charmian in Tripoli and its former Chairman in Al Bayda, Hasan Bu-Hadi who resigned last February. Such disputes are normal because the first has economic and banking background while the second is an electrical engineer.

The LIA division is about to finish as you stated; how could this happen now that the internationally supported Presidential Council created a steering committee in mid-August?

When I was appointed after Bu-Hadi’s resignation last February, we tried to connect with PC, namely their foreign minister Mohamed Sayaleh who is in charge of foreign investments, but he showed no response.

I personally tried again, through mutual friends, and suggested to complete the remaining LIA board members in line with the LIA Law no. 13 of 2010. There are now four of us: three from the west and I from the east. The Law stipulates three from the west, three from the east and one from the south. But Al-Sarraj rejected the proposal. He maintained that the decision would be made by the PC but this is against the law because the decision should be made by the LIA Board of Trustees which consists of the Prime Minister and the investment-concerned ministers. The Board of Trustees is located in Al Bayda and is recognized by the Parliament. The PC has no board of trustees because the Parliament has not endorsed its government and also because the decision is sovereign and hence must be made unanimously, but the PC issued it without being aware of the LIA statute.

Does the LIA Chairman in Tripoli, Abdulmajid Breish agree with you?

Yes. I contacted him and he is well aware of LIA operations in addition to his competency in banking and financial markets, unlike some other board members who have no investment background.

Breish and I have much in common. We issued a joint statement last week rejecting the illegal PC decision. We are also expected to complete the establishment of a unified board of directors next week. We identified several options for the board location with priority given to Egypt, Malta and the UK. Though there are still some technical issues about the selection criteria, we are making significant progress.

What about the international reactions to your acts now that there is a PC decision?

Let me explain again that this decision was made by the PC president only. Most of the PC members are not satisfied with it because it is illegal under the still effective LIA Law.

We have submitted a number of legal memos explaining the decision pitfalls to the U.S. and U.K. ambassadors and to the United Nations and European Common Market and we are now waiting for their answers.

This month, you held the first board session in Cairo, which hosts 15 percent of the LIA investments; what were the main decisions?

We held the former chairman legally accountable for not delivering his office. We, board members, decided to operate the portfolios to be able to evaluate them and address deficiencies. We also requested technical support from Egypt and they expressed readiness to help. This this will greatly enable us to manage these portfolios because we have major agricultural and real estate investment in Egypt.

Did your meeting request the release of the frozen LIA funds?

Not at all. Our joint statement did request the opposite; to keep them frozen because there is a group waiting for the release to grab or even steal the funds at the expense of the citizens’ good.

Who are they?

Regrettably, there are LIA offices working only for their personal interests. Some of them are supported by some Libyan ambassadors abroad who have resigned from politics and focused on investment. However, there are patriotic persons we trust. Those following up the Major African Portfolio contacted me and offered to cooperate with the newly unified LIA, which is managed by Libyan experts with long overseas experiences.

Do the LIA assets really amount to US $67 billion? What is the actual value in light of your LIA experience and role?

It is very difficult to estimate. I assumed office in February and had a big dispute with the former chairman, Bu-Hadi. Every time we requested accurate estimates, he evaded answering. It was only last February that we met upon pressure from the head of the Interim Government Abdullah al-Thani and during that meeting, Bu-Hadi resigned. But till now, he has declined to deliver office. We hold him legally accountable for that.

As for the assets value, we are seeking the assistance of consultancy firms. You can see that this number (67 billion) has been used constantly for years!

You were the Deputy LIA Chairman though the LIA Law does not provide for this position; what will change after you have become chairman?

The Board of Trustees had to nominate me as deputy chairman due to Bu-Hadi’s frequent absenteeism. They assigned the chairmanship responsibilities to me because there is no deputy in the LIA law. After his resignation, I was appointed as chairman by the Board of Trustees.

We are trying to control the LIA abroad. We do not have an office for the Chairman. Regrettably, when we contact some people, they say they report to the steering committee created by the PC. However, we agreed with Breish that he will control part of these offices and we will control another part and we shall contact the countries that host major LIA investments like Egypt and Jordan.

Some experts say the LIA is flopping and about to collapse; when did this begin?

I worked in Libyan investments in the early 1980s and then in the 1990s from London. The collapse started in 2006 when Saif al-Islam Gaddafi appointed his friends in the LIA board of directors and they had nothing to do with investment work, which caused the loss of billions of dollars. One of the most famous court cases is still running against a U.S. bank and a French bank. Deterioration went on dramatically and frighteningly after 2011. At first, a USD 10 billion portfolio was given to a junior employee who is now wanted by the judiciary for corruption charges. Now, the situation is still chaotic.