NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In what could become the largest international asset recovery effort of all time, the Libyan Asset Recovery and Management Office has filed an application in Manhattan federal court seeking discovery to pursue billions of dollars in missing assets traced to the regime of former Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi.
LARMO, an agency of Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Unity, has the exclusive and independent statutory authority to investigate, trace and recover assets misappropriated from the Libyan State during Gaddafi’s 40-year dictatorship.
LARMO was established in 2017 by Libya’s Government of National Accord with the backing and support of the United Nations and the European Union. LARMO is represented by attorneys from BakerHostetler and Holland & Knight, who filed the application in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi ruled Libya from 1969 until 2011.
Gaddafi allegedly stole an estimated $100 billion from the Libyan people by embezzling government funds and through corrupt business dealings. Much of the money is believed to have been secreted into foreign bank accounts and dummy corporations as well as distributed to Gaddafi family members and Gaddafi insiders. “LARMO was created to recover the significant assets stolen from the Libyan people. LARMO is now working to recover the billions Gaddafi stole for the benefit of all Libyans,” explained Anwar Arif, president of LARMO.
LARMO’s application also quotes a February 2009 U.S. State Department cable: “Libya [was] a kleptocracy in which the regime — either the [Gaddafi] family itself or its close political allies — has a direct stake in anything worth buying, selling or owning.”
LARMO plans to bring claims worldwide to recover monies looted by Gaddafi, his family and his agents. The recovered assets will be returned to the people of Libya. LARMO has engaged U.S. law firms BakerHostetler and Holland & Knight to lead a global asset recovery effort. Both firms have extensive experience in international asset recovery matters. BakerHostetler has led the 12-year pursuit of assets stemming from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, and has successfully recovered almost $14.5 billion in stolen money, all of which will be returned to defrauded investors.
“Any effort to recover assets for the state of Libya begins with tracing the assets secured by Gaddafi during his reign,” said Oren Warshavsky, co-leader of BakerHostetler’s Global Fraud and International Asset Tracing and Recovery team. “We are honored to be able to assist LARMO in launching this effort. This application is the first step in both determining where stolen assets have been hidden and working on their eventual return to the Libyan people.”
“The two firms and LARMO have been working together in this massive recovery effort,” said Warren Gluck of Holland & Knight. “We are doggedly working to trace and recover assets rightfully belonging to the Libyan people. This is just the beginning, and more exciting, challenging work will follow.”
The LARMO team has the backing of major international criminal justice bodies, including the United Nations International Crime and Research Institute, based in Turin, Italy. James Shaw, UNICRI’s senior legal office in charge of asset recovery stated, “The transparent but aggressive legal strategy proposed by LARMO’s engaged professionals, BakerHostetler and Holland & Knight, is considered by UNICRI as ideal in the recovery of Libyan assets for the benefit of the Libyan people. This strategy will improve Libya’s capacity to effect positive results in European and North American judicial courts.”
Assets recovered by LARMO belong to the Libyan State. Sums recovered by LARMO will be deposited in a special fund to be distributed to local and municipal governments in compliance with transparency and anti-corruption requirements.
In addition to Warshavsky, BakerHostetler attorneys Gonzalo Zeballos, Tatiana Markel, Michelle Usitalo, Paul Levine and Carlos Ramos-Mrosovsky have been working on this matter; attorneys David Sheehan and Mark Cymrot have been working in advisory capacity.