Plans by Misrata to “Smuggle” Central Bank of Libya Out of Tripoli Revealed – Al Marsad

A leading political and economic intelligence publication claims that Misratan militias are planning to move the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) from Tripoli to their home city of Misrata, as the possibility of the Libyan National Army (LNA) winning the war in the capital looks more likely. The article headline claims “Misrata wants Central Bank as war booty if Khalifa Haftar wins.”

[Libya, 21 June 2019] – The claims were published by African Intelligence, a leading online publication focussing on political and economic developments in Africa, and it said this “fall-back plan could cause serious tensions, however, with their allies in Tripoli.”

The fighting continues to rage in the suburbs of Tripoli with the LNA consistently inflicted serious losses to the GNA cartel of militias. As the LNA inches their way closer to the centre of the capital, GNA-affiliated militias are already showing signs of disarray, disunity, with unconfirmed reports that some of the key militia leaders may already have fled Tripoli.

The scenario of an LNA victory is not lost on Misratan leaders such as Fathi Bashagha, who hails from Misrata and is currently the Government of National Accord (GNA)’s Minister of Interior and effectively also its Minister of Defence. “According to our banking sources, preparations have been in progress for several weeks for the transfer to Misrata of the computer servers which contain the CBL’s ultra-secret internal data,” stated African Intelligence.

The article states, “The CBL represents the financial heart of Libya and is highly strategic. It receives and redistributes the revenues of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and authorises the letters of credit which are necessary for the purchase of the country’s imports. It is also the repository of the financial secrets great and small of the country’s businessmen, politicians and militia leaders.”

Tripoli factions are unlikely to give up control easily of the CBL, currently governed by Siddiq Al-Kabir, with whom they have had a close relationship that has seen millions of Libyan dinars being paid to militias in Tripoli regularly. The CBL has been the lifeblood for the financial survival of Islamist militias and any decision to smuggle the CBL out of Tripoli to Misrata would modify the balance of power in the underlying rivalry between Tripoli, which is now being described as a “Militia Capital”, and Misratan militias.

Photo of the CBL Governor Siddiq Al-Kabir with Head of the State Council and member of Muslim Brotherhood, khaled Mishri.

The article explains: “On the ground, the tensions between Tripolitan and Misrati forces is becoming increasingly palpable. Since the Misrati forces moved into the front line in early May, they have been accused of monopolising the military equipment received by the GNA, notably from Turkey.” There were many reports of militia in-fighting with the recently shipment of armoured vehicles which were received in Tripoli by the Misratan,and UN-sanctioned, Salah Badi and his Al Somoud Brigade.

Arrival of over 40 armoured vehicles from Turkey at Tripoli port on May 2019.

The district where is CBL is located in Tripoli is controlled by Abderraouf Kara’s Rada militia and no move would be possible without the Misratans negotiating with them first. “This militia [Rada] has a powerful hold over the CBL, where several of its members figure in the administration. And it is Rada which controls the district in which the bank’s head office is situated, as well as the Mitiga airport and high security prison”, according to African Intelligence.

What complicates matters for Misrata is that Rada has “put itself under the orders of Tripoli’s Misrati prosecutor general Siddiq Al Sour,” who is preparing a list of charges against the CBL governor, Siddiq Al-Kabir as part of his clean-up campaign of the financial institutions in the capital.

Militias in Tripoli “are refusing to give up control of the state institutions, where they are infiltrating the administrative services under the pretext of ensuring their safety” and Misrata militias “fear, therefore, that their local allies will defect. The political positions of several of the militias, whose leaders are not all of the same mind, are unstable. This is the case with the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade (TRB) commanded by Haithem Tajouri, which risks splitting up, particularly since Tajouri’s departure into exile in Tunis has damaged his troops’ morale,” said the article. Furthermore, it said that Rada “is staying cautiously neutral but could also switch loyalties to Haftar.”

Any move to “smuggle” the CBL as “booty”, in the event of an LNA win, along with its documentation and internal data to Misrata would cause serious conflict for them with the rest of Libya, and also undermine any efforts by Libyan institutions to be able to carry out a complete audit of the CBL given accusations of mismanagement and the underwriting of terrorism through the illegal funding of militias.

© Al Marsad English. 2019.