The Muslim Brotherhood Grip’s on Libyan Financial Institutions: The Case of Mustapha Al-Manea – Al Marsad

Mustapha al-Manea, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and legal adviser to the Central Bank of Libya, was sent by the GNA to represent Libya at the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF) forum in Orlando this month. Al Marsad investigates the activities of Mustapha al-Manea, Fathi Aqoub, Tarek Yousef Megarief and others and the increasing web of influence and domination exerted by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters on Libya’s financial institutions.

[Libya, 28 June 2019] – The Maghreb Confidential and Africa Intelligence, two leading news agencies covering North Africa, revealed that the Tripoli regime of the Government of National Accord (GNA) has recently dispatched the Muslim Brotherhood member and Legal Adviser to the Central Bank of Libya (CBL), Mustapha al-Manea, to represent Libya at the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Al Marsad details the increasing web of domination exerted by the Muslim Brotherhood on Libya’s financial institutions.

The FATF forum is concerned with setting standards and promoting effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system, which is why the presence of Mustapha a-Manea is puzzling.

The Tripoli Government attended the FATF forum which was held in Orlando, Florida during 16–21 June, in an attempt to improve its tarnished image on issues relating to funding terrorism. The news platform, Maghreb Confidential, wrote on Thursday that Mustapha al-Manea: “took advantage of the FATF symposium to give assurances in good faith on combating the financing of terrorism”, at a time the Tripoli authorities—and Central Bank of Libya Governor, Siddik al-Kabir—want to show their activism on this issue, while their opponent Khalifa Haftar accuses them of funding terrorist militias to defend Tripoli.

On the 20th of February 2018 FATF removed Libya from the Watch List of states whose ability to “apply the standards and obligations to combat money laundering and terrorist financing offences” was in doubt. FATF said that Libya now is complying “with all the requirements and obligations to combat money laundering and terrorist financing crimes according to the international standards which positively reflects the reputation of the Libyan state and enhances the confidence of international financial and economic institutions with in its financial and banking institutions.”

Given this shift by FATF, Mustapha al-Manea exploited the event to provide assurances to the delegations participating at the international forum on the intention of the Tripoli GNA to combat terror financing.

However, al-Manea, who is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), is also one of the leading figures of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, which has been accused of controlling the CBL and infiltrating its strategic and highly sensitive dossiers for years. Controlling the LIA and the CBL is critical to the Muslim Brotherhood since both sovereign institutions run and manage the oil-rich country’s assets and wealth funds, effectively empowering the transnational agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly at a time the US President Donald Trump threatened again in May 3 3“to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.”

Mustapha Al-Manea

The European media platform wrote that Mustapha al-Manea was accompanied on this trip by Osama Haider, who is the representative of the CBL and is the office manager of the outgoing CBL Governor, Siddik al-Kabir.

With a questionable curriculum vitae, according to some sources, Haider was appointed to his position with less than two years work experience. The office manager of the CBL absconded from the General Authority for Endowments and Islamic Affairs, where he was an apprenticed solicitor, to the most important financial institution in the country.

Haider is also accused of being placed in this position by the Nawasi Brigade, one of the most heavily armed militias and among the largest armed military groups in Tripoli led by the jihadist, Mustapha Gaddour. Gaddour was accused by Mohamed Ali bin Yousef, general manager at Libyan Foreign Bank, of threatening to kill him.

Osama Haider

Mustapha al-Manea’s Background

Following a meeting held by the President of the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord last 23 February, in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Tripoli-based Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), prior to his departure to Egypt to participate in the EU-League of Arab States (LAS) summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, the Tripoli-based LIA Board decided to set up a committee to liaise with the Attorney General’s office. This was to enable the LIA’s management to function normally during the detention of its Chairman, Ali Mohamed.

Decree No. 2 of 2019 issued by the Tripoli-based LIA Board of Trustees provides for the formation of a committee headed by the Minister of Planning, Taher al-Jahmi, and the membership of five others to reach out to the Attorney-General Office and the legal office assigned by the management of the LIA to explore the situation and developments facing the LIA management.

Furthermore, Decree No. 1 of 2019 appointed Yousef al-Mabrouk, Director of Sarraj’s Presidential Council Office, as Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Libyan Investment Authority.

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Under the same resolution, senior Muslim Brotherhood member Mustapha al-Manea was appointed as a member of the Board of Directors of the Libyan Investment Corporation through nomination and pressure exerted by the CBL Governor, Siddik al-Kabir. Before the imposed appointment, al-Manea had not assumed any official post at the LIA. It is noteworthy to mention here, that al-Manea worked as a special advisor to al-Kabir, according to sources from inside the sovereign fund establishment.

Mustapha Al-Manea’s appointment by the LIA

From the Muslim Brotherhood to the Central Bank of Libya, al-Manea has been elevated to his new senior position at Libya’s sovereign fund institution, and this completes the domination, by the Muslim Brotherhood, of top state institutions of the country.

Before the appointment of Mustapha al-Manea, however, figures and media organisations loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood launched a defamation campaign against Siddik al-Kabir in January and February this year, blaming his mismanagement of the CBL as the main cause behind a series of bottlenecks in the country, citing, in this regard, the announcement of the continued suspension of households’ stipend of five hundred LYD.

Influential leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood exert their influence on Libya’s economy

For the first time in years, in July 2018, the leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, Fathi Agoub, publicly spoke on behalf of the management of the Tripoli Central Bank of Libya (CBL) in his capacity as secretary of the CBL and as an administrator in its Board of Trustees at a press conference to talk about the latest developments of the financial and security crisis in the country.

Fathi Agoub during the press conference by the Central Bank of Libya

Fathi Agoub was born in 1971 in Benghazi. He was on the wanted list by the security authorities of the former regime. Official records categorized Agoub as a Muslim Brotherhood activist. His security record, issued by the former Internal Security Service, indicated that he was active in Cairo according to the confessions of several MB detainees during the Gaddafi era, and among them was Abdulla Shamiyyah, former Minister of Education at the post-Gaddafi National Transitional Council’s Executive Office.

The security record of Fathi Agoub (Archive)

The CHA records refer to an old connection with the Islamic Gathering, led by Mustapha al-Trabelsi, an Islamist group that the incumbent member of the Presidential Council, Mohamed Ammari Zayed had been affiliated with, according to Salem al-Maghrebi, a member of the Islamic Gathering.

An article by Fathi Agoub on the official website of the Muslim Brotherhood published on 23 January 2014

Agoub is considered one of the most active members of the MB and its leadership as well as in the Shura councils, and the Justice and Construction Party, which is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood led by Mohammed Sawan. The group periodically contributes many Op-Eds and articles on political issues through its official website, suggesting the nature of the relationship between the CBL and the Muslim Brotherhood and the influence of the latter over the Bank, even if parties of the two entities deny the existence of such relationship or use media exchange in the public domain to masquerade the bonds that tie them.

Fathi Agoub with Muslim Brotherhood leaders at their first conference in Benghazi (2011)

Senior Muslim Brotherhood figures control the nodes of the CBL

The General Rapporteur of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood is the Swiss Libyan, Suleiman Abdel Gader. Born in 1966, he belongs to the younger generation of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood movement that brought the group back to life between 2009 and 2012. Like other MBs, he focused on controlling another equally important institution that is relevant the Central Bank of Libya, the Institute of Banking Studies (IBS) in Tripoli. Siddik al-Kabir appointed Suleiman Abdel Gader as IBS managing director although he is not an expert in the financial or banking sector.

Suleiman Abdel Gader speaking at a symposium organized by the Institute in conjunction with the Central Bank of Libya on October 2017

He studied mechanical engineering and worked in several companies in the Swiss city of Zurich. Furthermore, Abdel Gader chaired the Muslim Association of Switzerland in addition to his activities as a General Rapporteur of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood. He played a prominent role in the first Muslim Brotherhood conference held in Benghazi at the end of 2011, which attended by the leaders of the group, notably Mohammed Sawan, Abdul Razzaq al-Aradi, Bashir al-Kabti, Ahmad al-Souki and others.

His university major and expertise does not meet the requirements necessary for working at a bank, let alone a Central Bank. In spite of this non-conformity and affiliation with a political party, namely the Justice and Construction Party, the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya appointed him as a Director of the Institute of Banking Studies (IBS). The IBS is a prestigious financial college that was furnished in 2008 with highly sophisticated equipment and advanced capabilities. Such an appointment indicates the extent of influence of the Muslim Brotherhood at the Central Bank of Libya in Tripoli, which was confirmed by the Head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, during a special interview with 218 News TV in which he confirmed political Islam’s influence on the appointment of Siddik al-Kabir’s for the governorship of the CBL.

Press archive contains many photographs confirming the Tripoli-focused dominance of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood on the Central Bank of Libya. One photo goes back to February 2017 where the Institute of Banking Studies in Tripoli organized a training course under the patronage of Siddik al-Kabir, the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya.

In one photo, Suleiman Abdel Gader, Director of the Institute of Banking Studies in Tripoli, and Fathi Agoub appear at a ceremony of certificates’ distribution at the culmination of a training course that was offered by the IBS.

Fathi Agoub right, Sulaiman Abdul Gader left, with prominent administrative member at the Central Bank, Mohammed Abu Nainina (Al Marsa Archive)

It is noteworthy that the Institute of Banking Studies in Tripoli enjoys an full financial and legal independence and specializes, among other areas, in training bankers on the development of banking policies. The IBS offers training program for dozens of employees of commercial banks’ operating in the country. Some sources say that the Muslim Brotherhood member, Suleiman Abdel Gader, has made the institute a center for training the younger generation of the group to control the various aspects of the banking sector—an historic goal for the group, which is accused of seeking to turn Libya into a regional financial center for the MB international organization through the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya.

Mustapha al-Manea, An Advisor to the CBL Governor

Mustapha al-Manea is currently a legal adviser to Siddik al-Kabir. Mustapha al-Manea is also one of the most prominent Muslim Brotherhood figures in the country because of the importance of his brothers, Nasser al-Manea and Ali al-Manea, and their influence in the Muslim Brotherhood. Also Mustapha al-Manea grew up in a household loyal to the MB as their father was one of the most prominent leaders of the group. His father also served as secretary of the National Transitional Council (NTC) following the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Mustafa El Mana with Siddik al-Kabir, Mustafa Sanallah and Fathi Agoub, among others, at the Central Bank of Libya

Mustapha al-Manea recently participated in meetings of the Central Bank of Libya representing Siddik al-Kabir with members of the State Council as well as with Omar Tantoush, Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Libyan House of Representatives, who is also accused of profiting from letters of credit. Tantoush has strong influence with the Central Bank of Libya, which contradicts the nature of his work as a member of the Libyan House of Representatives.

Mustapha al-Manea recently participated in meetings of the Central Bank of Libya representing Siddik al-Kabir with members of the State Council as well as with Omar Tantoush, Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Libyan House of Representatives.

Mustapha al-Manea’s brothers also have alarming connections and background. His older brother Ali al-Manea is currently presiding over an organisation that is sympathetic with the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, and claims that it caters for the needs of internally displaced families from the city of Benghazi. The society, which met with the High Council of State last January, is known for its positions in support of extremist armed groups in Benghazi.

Abdulrahman Al-Suweihli with members of the Muslim Brotherhood Ibrahim Sahat, Omar Bouchah, Huda Al-Banani, Ali Al-Manea and Mustafa Sakazli.

Documents, obtained by Al Marsad, indicate that Nasser al-Manea was appointed by Resolution No. 34 for the year 2011, issued by the National Transitional Council, as Director of the Libyan-Qatari Crisis Management Centre.

Resolution No. 34 for the year 2011, issued by the National Transitional Council

Formation of the Libyan-Qatari Crisis Management Centre

Press sources told Al Marsad that the idea of establishing the Libyan Qatari Crisis Management Centre was proposed by the Qatari Military Intelligence at the time in Benghazi in 2011, where it was assigned a building at the Great Man-Made River headquarters, equipped with an information center, operations room and spying equipment. The entire facility was then transferred to Tripoli where it was allocated a hangar inside Mitiga Air Base under the supervision of Abdelhakim Belhadj during his tenure as Head of the Tripoli Military Council.

Nasser al-Manea

Nasser then traveled to Istanbul and served as an intermediary to facilitate banking transactions between the Central Bank of Libya and Turkish banks, namely the Ziraat Bankası. Here the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya deposited funds worth US$1.5 billion, despite apparent high-risk factors given financial problems sweeping over the Turkish banking sector, as well as an increasingly depreciated Lira exchange rate vis-à-vis the US dollar. Perhaps this narrative explains the relationship between the Manea family and the Central Bank of Libya and the suspected pressure and influence they exert in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Early relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood

In March, Libya’s Ambassador to Turkey, a senior member of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, Abdul Razzaq Mukhtar, who is currently suspended by the Administrative Oversight Authority, confirmed that he was the one who nominated Siddik al-Kabir to the post of Governor of the Central Bank of Libya after differences with his predecessor Qasim Azouz. The Libyan Ambassador to Turkey described Azouz’s management of the CBL as mediocre and a unable to run a vital and sovereign institution like the CBL.

Abdul-Razzaq Mukhtar

Abdul-Razzaq Mukhtar’s statement came after a similar statement made by the former head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, during a special interview with 218 News TV in which he confirmed Mukhtar’s story of of the nomination of the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya by Islamists.

In March 2013, the Mauritanian fundamentalist preacher Muhammad al-Hassan Ould al-Dadou, member of the World Union of Muslim Scholars (WUMS) and a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, close to Ali al-Sallabi, member of the WUMS, paid an unexpected visit to Tripoli, where he met with the Governor of the Central Bank. During that visit, where he appeared to have begun to weave his relationship with the Governor of the CBL, the Mauritanian preacher then visited Sheikh Ali Al-Qaradaghi, the Secretary General of the World Union of Muslim Scholars.

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During the visit, the Mauritanian fundamentalist preacher Muhammad al-Hassan Ould al-Dadou also visited the Grand Mufti of Tripoli, Sadiq al-Gharyani, followed by a second visit to Sheikh Ali Al-Qaradaghi, and a third to the leader of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood, Abdelfattah Morou, Vice-President of the Tunisian Parliament and co-Founder of the Ennahdha Party, the political arm of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood. Fathi Agoub, the senior official at the Central Bank of Libya, was the common factor in all these meetings.

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In the aftermath of the Operation Dawn of Libya, and the reinstatement of the defunct General National Congress, and with the blessing and support of the Grand Mufti of Tripoli, a new body came into existence: the Central Authority for Islamic Banking Oversight (CAIBO). Agoub was assigned an executive membership in the CAIBO. Osama al-Sallabi was also in the CAIBO administration. Salem al-Shaikhi, one of MB’s senior figures, and a suspect in the assassination of Major General Abdel Fattah Younis, was also a member in the CAIBO executive steering committee. Hamza Abou Fares, member of Dar al-Iftaa was the chairman of the executive work team of CAIBO. All the above figures are mentioned on the terror lists of Egypt, GCC, and Libya.

Members of the Commission

Supporting Violence and Extremism

On his official Facebook page, though Agoub holds a high-ranking post at the Central Bank of Libya, he could not hide his support for the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries (SCBR) and the Justice and Construction Party, despite the JCP’s recent criticism of the SCBR and SCDR, specifically their view of democracy—a reference to their extremism.

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Agoub does not hide his admiration of the Islamist ideology Sayyid Qutb as well as his support for the Operation Dawn of Libya, which divided the country—the same division that Agoub recently spoke about at a press conference when discussing its negative consequences and on the political landscape in Libya.

Is it just an unfortunate coincidence, or is it the requirements of the post, or is it a systematic project led by the Muslim Brotherhood to make the creative chaos continue to dominate the Libyan situation?

Ambiguity overshadows the role played by the Muslim Brotherhood in relation to the Central Bank of Libya. Sometimes the MB demands through its organisations and political puppets the sacking of its Governor, and in a number of occasions accuses him of being behind the ongoing economic crisis, while at other times negotiates and sets conditions when approaching the moment of his dismissal from office. It is the same elements that have infiltrated the joints of the Central Bank of Libya and its management.

Al-Manea, Abdul Razak Al-Aradi and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood with Mustafa Abdul Jalil in his farm in 2011 (Archive)

Such duplicity raises important questions. Perhaps the most important one is whether the Muslim Brotherhood is deliberately creating this confusion in the CBL and causing a crisis in its administration that has been disastrously reflected on the economic situation of the country. The other question is whether the group and its supporters at home and abroad use the governor of the bank as pawn for political gain; they could be using him also to stay in their positions and keep playing on contradictions.

The other question is why the Muslim Brotherhood member, the Head of the Audit Bureau, Khaled Shakshak, is intransigent in his stance against the CBL Governor. Agoub, speaking on behalf of the Governor, replied that the dissemination of the latest report on corruption by the Audit Bureau was not legal because it did not pass through the House of Representatives (HoR), the legislative body that the three of them do not recognize. They do not recognize the resolutions issued by the HoR, most notably the resolutions pertaining to their dismissal from office.

The question that arises is whether he took advantage of his position at the Central Bank of Libya to play any role in the financing of terrorism. Doubts and allegations have been raised in the past about leaked cheques that were said to have been submitted to the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries to pay their expenses, in coordination with Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) leader Khalid al-Sharif, a former undersecretary of the Defense Ministry and close to Abdel Hakim Belhadj. All research trails on this ends up connecting with the State of Qatar and the Republic of Turkey. The latter is the first haven for laundering dirty money for foreign currency and gold smugglers, who open fake bank accounts to cover bank credits—one of the most dangerous black holes in Libya’s faltering economy.

Checks issued by the Central Bank of Libya to the Shura of Benghazi in 2015 for more than 5 million dinars

Given that Agoub does not hide his cooperation with Qatar and his pro-Qatar stance, what exactly is then the role played by Qatar, specifically in the Central Bank of Libya? The management of the Central Bank of Libya is currently facing many accusations. It is also in disagreement with the General Command of the Libyan National Army (LNA), which previously expressed its refusal to transfer revenues from the country’s oil exports to the CBL.

Agoub, in the above post, defends Qatar in reply to Abdal Rahman Shalgam’s press statements

In this context, a member of the CBL Board of Trustees and who is a resident of Doha, is Tarik M. Yousef al-Megarief, the Chief Executive Officer of Silatech. His position at Silatech puts him in direct contact with Sheikha Moza, the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Silatech. Sheikha Moza is the consort of the former Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and mother of the present ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser overseeing the signing of agreements between Silatech (represented by Tarek Yousef) and some of its partners, Doha, Qatar

 

Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser on the sixth meeting of the Board of Trustees of Silatech Foundation in Tunisia (January 2012)

It is also necessary to point to a famous tweet by Martin Kobler, former Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya  (UNSMIL) on October 24, 2017. He wrote: “As always, constructive and supportive meeting with @MBA_AlThani on how to empower funds from central bank to #PC (Presidential Council) and Tripoli situation.”

The former head of UNSMIL, Martin Kobler on his meeting with the Foreign Minister of Qatar.

Oil Money, Terrorism, and the Central Bank

Aguila Saleh, Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives (HoR), stated months ago that the handover of the oil fields and terminals to the National Oil Corporation (NOC) in Benghazi was aimed at securing the resources of the country and ensuring that oil revenues reach all Libyans, instead of using such funds against the interests of the Libyan people by financing terrorists and purchasing weapons and tanks.

Refuting international criticism of the handover of oil fields and terminals to the National Oil Corporation in Benghazi, the Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives said that if the international community wanted happiness and stability for the Libyan people, and was keen to maintain common interests with Libya, that it had to realize that the Libyan people did not benefit from their own oil revenues.

“If Libya is of interest to the international community, it must accept the decision of the Libyan House of Representatives to change the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya in Tripoli, Siddik al-Kabir who controls the Libyan funds,” said Aguila Saleh.

UNSMIL Head Ghassan Salamé said a few months ago that the UN mission invited Libyans to discuss the audit of the two branches of the Central Bank of Libya, in the capital Tripoli as well as in the Eastern city of al-Baida, by an independent international audit team. However, this proposal was not translated into any tangible measures whatsoever. In the meantime, the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord continued its issuance of resolutions, contrary to the provisions of the Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement, and lacking any legitimacy whatsoever since the GNA was not approved by the legitimate legislative authority in the country. Consequently, the GNA continues to issue decrees that are in many cases challenged before Libyan courts.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Libya seems to be further strengthening his influence beyond his jurisdiction. He has extended his influence to include the appointment of his office manager to the Libyan Investment Authority. There have been growing accusations of al-Kabir playing a role beyond the powers conferred upon him by CBL governorship—in addition to becoming a party to the conflict in Libya. The most recent of these accusations was last weekend when he was criticized by the Interior Minister of the Government of National Accord, Fathi Bashagha.

Some observers see al-Kabir maintaining his position by appeasing the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly its political arm reflected in the High Council of the State, even when from time to time it raises the possibility of his dismissal from CBL governorship by reaching a consensus with the Libyan House of Representatives.

The network of high level members of the Muslim Brotherhood, their collaboration and coordination across institutions and countries, and their presence and influence in the decision making of key financial institutions of Libya—is a matter of grave concern for the Libyan public and the international community given the urgency in combating extremism, corruption, and dismantling the sources of funding that sustain and strengthen extremist militias and terror groups.

© Al Marsad English. 2019.