Politico on 19th August carried a fascinating article about Belgium’s Prince Laurent, younger brother of the King Philippe, who has been feuding with Prime Minister Charles Michel and his ministers since at least 2017, when the government docked his yearly allowance. It says that at the heart of the disagreement, according to the prince, is what he describes as the government’s failure to defend his interests in a dispute over €50 million he says he was promised by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for a massive forestry scheme gone awry. Billions of euros of Gaddafi’s funds are frozen in Brussels, but the prince is furious that he is forbidden from being repaid with money from these accounts. Prince Laurent links with Gaddafi date from a meeting in Brussels in 2004. In 2008, In 2008, a multi-million euro contract was signed authorising the Prince to carry out a large-scale reforestation project at 3 sites in Libya. After Gaddafi was killed in the 2011 coup, the new minister of agriculture began demanding money from the prince before the project was allowed to advance. Then the Prince sued the new UN-backed government in a Belgian court, was awarded €50 million in damages, but with no indication of how he was to obtain it. He then discovered that despite €15 billion of Libya’s sovereign wealth being frozen by UN sanctions in Brussels, Belgium was allowing hundreds of millions of euros in interest payments to flow out – but with none to him. It is reported that Belgium lobbied on behalf of Belgian companies (like arms manufacturer FN Herstal) but not the Prince. In any event, all interest payments from the Libyan funds have been blocked after a decision by the Belgian judiciary in 2017, with the government seeking clarity from both the UN and European Commission on how to interpret the sanctions related to Libya.
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