Bogus Think Tank Leads European Delegation Visit to Tripoli – SPECIAL REPORT – Al Marsad

The High Council of State invites a bogus PR company and think tank, headed by notorious pro-Qatari publicist Sameh Habeeb to lead a European Fact Finding Delegation Visit to Tripoli. In this Special Report Al Marsad reviews the dubious credentials of Sameh Habeeb and his organisation.

Al-Marsad – Special Report

[Libya, 10 June 2019] – The Tripoli-based advisory body, the High Council of State (HCS), received on Sunday what it described as a “high-level European monitoring commission with a fact-finding mission to assess the situation on the ground and convey the right picture to the world,” according to its Media Bureau. The European delegation also met with mayors of the Greater Tripoli municipalities.

Sameh Habeeb hosted by the High Council of State (9 June, 2019)

The head of the delegation, according to photos published by the HCS Media Bureau and verified by Al Marsad, is a British Palestinian named Sameh Akram Habeeb, founder and managing director of the International Centre for Relations & Diplomacy (ICRD)—a  company established in London as late as 2017 as an independent organisation.

According to international media reports, Habeeb, who is also a journalist, was accused of publishing biased reports, exhibiting consistent lack of clarity, fabrication and dissemination of prejudiced news in favour of Islamist groups through a variety of media outlets.

The “Think Tank”

Al Marsad examined the background of The International Centre for Relations & Diplomacy (ICRD) and found that it is registered in the UK Commercial Register (No. 11028531) to conduct activities for political organisations. The ICRD only has one registered company member who is both the founder and also its chairman: Sameh Akram Sobhi Habeeb. The capital of the ICRD is stated as a “limited by guarantee without share” capital of only one Pound Sterling, equivalent to 5.5 LYD at the exchange rate in the parallel market in Tripoli. On that basis alone, the ICRD is not a credible institution fit to work on behalf of any respected and prominent political institution of a country, let alone Libya.

Al Marsad is aware that the aforementioned company does not have any credible official status and is not a reputable civil society organisation in the United Kingdom, in addition to the fact that it came into existence only in 2017, and it is not engaged in any global initiative or programme, and remains relatively unknown even in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the founder and chairman of ICRD seems to have administered several other organisations, all accused of being fraudulent entities—one of them has been even been banned by the State of Israel for advocating terrorism in Tel Aviv.

According to British commercial law, ICRD is a limited liability company with one sole guarantor. This means that the firm has no shares whatsoever, and as such it is tax-exempted and does not need to appoint an accountant for financial due diligence or even obliged to hire a working team. Its company records are managed by one individual who only has to pay one British Pound Sterling annually to maintain the company registration.

The Facebook account of ICRD, Habeeb’s self-proclaimed think tank, said in a statement issued Saturday that the ICRD organised the fact-finding mission forum to Libya with the High Council of State. It added that Habeeb had arranged an international mission of veteran European diplomats, security experts, politicians and journalists from ten EU countries in order to assess the current situation in Libya and the large-scale implications of the Libyan conflict on stability. He said that the European delegation held a series of meetings with political stakeholders, international agencies and civil society organisations in Tripoli. The visiting commission is expected to issue a report and recommendations for the next steps at the culmination of the current visit to the Libyan capital. However, the chairman of ICRD could not provide the Libyan public the full names or concise biographies of the 27-member delegation.

On Sunday 9 June, the delegation even had a briefing with UNSMIL’s Ghassan Salamé to discuss the political situation in Libya, particularly EU-Libya dynamics. Sameh Habeeb was present at the briefing. UNSMIL official twitter states that the delegation was on an “unofficial” visit to Libya, although pro-Islamist The Libyan Observer states that the visit was upon the invitation by the High Council of State.

Yesterday, the Head of the Presidential Council Fayez Al-Sarraj met with the “European Monitoring Commission” and Sameh Habeeb was part of the delegation group (second from left in the photo below). Al-Sarraj provided a briefing that seemed to have avoided critical detail on why the Abu Dhabi agreement was not honoured by him or the militias under the GNA. Will the Fact-Finding European Commission also travel East to meet with the Head of the House of Representatives and also with the Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan Armed Forces (LNA)?

Fake Media Brand Names

The Palestinian-born 32-year old journalist Sameh Akram Habeeb is a very busy man indeed. Since November 2017 he catapulted overnight to become the head of over 50 spurious media platforms. Habeeb owns fake online newspapers such as Amsterdam Times, Australia News Today, Berlin Tomorrow, Moscow News Daily, New York Herald, Norway Post, Sydney Town, Vegas News Today, Ireland Now, and so on. These names were fabricated to fool the public that these “media outlets” were well-established entities. None of which was ever the case.

One of these outlets, for example, is Fox News 24, a name cloned by Habeeb from the American Fox News, and which has no connection with the real US television station. The same goes for the rest of his media outlets, none of which are genuine platforms. The entire string of websites can be traced to a serviced office address in London’s Covent Garden. The registration dates indicate that all of Habeeb’s sites were simultaneously launched on 22 November, 2017, through a single process of registering at least 17 sites in one day under domain names that sounded like famous and plausible media brands and well-established newspaper and television stations. The websites also share a common internet IP address.

His websites do publish daily news, but almost all of his news feeds are not original, rather they are either republished or plagiarised from other independent news sites. For an example of this type of copy and paste journalism see the image below from his Fox News 24 homepage. Here Fox News 24 plagiarized three of the four headline topics from RT English, the well-known Russian media platform, while the fourth story was taken from CNN with only a slight modification by deleting the first sentence from the story posted by the global news network.

Hamas and Anti-Semitism

Habeeb is also the editor of the online Palestine Telegraph publication. He also served as the head of the media and public relations department at the Palestinian Return Center. He also contributed several articles to the London-based and pro-Qatari and pro-Islamist Middle East Eye online publication.

Many of his Palestine-related activities and activism were controversial and he became notorious in the UK for his virulent anti-semitic views. He was linked to a pro-Qatari group and was suspended in 2018 from running as a Labour council candidate in London over allegations of “anti-Semitic” comments. This was a setback for Jeremy Corbyn and his party which was plagued by charges of racism.

Despite its pretence as a pro-Palestinian human rights group, the Palestinian Return Center (PRC) is one of the few Palestinian advocacy groups to have been banned by Israel, on the basis of its deep entanglement with top leaders of the Hamas.  According to a report in The Telegraph published in 2015, the Palestinian Return Center “has regularly hosted Palestinian leaders, including [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh, at its annual conferences.” In 2015 the Israeli Mission at the UN said that Israel had banned the Palestinian Return Center in 2010 because of its ties to Hamas, labelling it “an organisational and coordinating wing of Hamas in Europe” with members that include senior Hamas officials. Sameh Habeeb continues to have links with the PRC and its senior management, and in the case of Tarek Hamoud, the general director of the PRC, even registered a joint company.

Pro-Qatar PR Services

In 2017, according to an article posted by the British researcher, Brian Whitaker, on his personal blog Al-Bab, Sameh Habeeb engaged in a pro-Qatar media campaign after the decision by the Gulf States and Egypt to boycott Qatar. He issued press releases through yet another centre affiliated with him, the London Centre for Public Affairs (LCPA), which lobbied British MPs to boycott a 2017 Qatari opposition conference. The report also adds that the International Centre for Relations & Diplomacy (ICRD) was an unknown organisation with no track record but which strongly advocated the Qatari stance during the Gulf crisis. Whitaker’s Al Bab identifies ten PR press releases on the websites, four of which related to Palestinian political campaigns and three to Qatar. Some of the reports relate to the human rights impact allegedly resulting from the Arab Quartet boycott of Qatar for supporting of terrorism and promoting extremism.

Fake Addresses

Through the ICRD website, Habeeb promotes his centre as a think tank as well as an established public relations and consulting firm. ICRD uses a pseudo address and false telephone numbers. Habeeb has also posted pictures of alleged employees working with him at the firm. Such attempts on the part of the website owner raises many serious questions about the lack of credibility of this organisation.

The wrong address is listed for the ICRD on its website. When visiting the location, it was found to be construction site in Central London.

Location of the address provided by Habeeb as his pseudo think-tank location

Not surprisingly Habib’s ICRD is not the only entity claiming to use this fictitious address as its physical location. London Mayfair State Agent (LMSA), also used the Covent Garden serviced office address as its registered point of contact— the same construction site. The LMSA was recently founded in March 2017 and is co-owned by Habeeb himself and Tarek Hamoud, who is the Palestinian general director of the pro-Hamas Palestinian Return Centre.

A Question of Credibility

ICRD, which organised the controversial fact-finding commission trip to Libya for the Higher Council of State, was founded in May 2016, although it was not established as a company until October 2017 describing itself as an independent non-profit, nonpartisan intellectual organisation based in Brussels and London.

By and large, neither this person nor any of his previous activities has had any impact on any Middle Eastern issue, including his own country-related activities in Palestine—nor are there any transparent disclosure of sources of funding for his activities or any association with economic entities or grants.

Sameh Habeeb, and Khaled Mishri of the High Council of State, therefore have a duty to clarify ICRD’s sources of funding and the reasons for its involvement in a fact-finding mission to Libya. Since ICRD, is registered as a non-profit organisation on UK official commercial registration papers, Habeeb must clarify how his ICRD managed to pay travel tickets, living expenses and accommodation for a large number of delegates, media professionals, and former European politicians.

The Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA), and its Muslim Brotherhood allies, recently allocated millions of dollars to public relations companies to improve their image in Europe and the United States. Their officials continually complain about “the international silence” on what they term “the aggression of Haftar on Tripoli”. Yet Islamist media platforms continually exaggerate any international action, support or movement that is deemed in their favour—even if it means using a fake company that was established with a capital of 5.5 LYD claiming that it had organised a fact-finding commission when it does not have any credible official capacity or experience of Libya.

Given Sameh Habeeb’s untrustworthy professional background and the bogus status of the International Centre for Relations & Diplomacy (ICRD), the High Council of State (HCS) is urged to provide full disclosure of the payments, or reimbursement amounts of air tickets and accommodation fees for the European fact-finding mission members, whether paid by the HCS through the country’s public funds or by a friendly country or organisation. We suspect a complete breakdown of the due diligence undertaken by the High Council of State and we request it to be fully transparent on this issue and explain in what capacity and under what criteria was the ICRD and Sameh Habeeb selected to lead a “fact-finding” mission to Tripoli, and also to urgently provide details on the composition, background and affiliation of the delegation members.

© Al Marsad English. 2019.