Libya Tribune

Khalifa Haftar’s private plane landed in Istanbul twice last July. The Falcon 900 also landed during the same period in Abu Dhabi and then at the private Emirati airport of Al Batine, reserved for businessmen.

This private jet attracts the attention of “flight tracking” adepts who monitor flights in real time and trace their movements.

Usually this aircraft is used by Khalifa Haftar, but more and more frequently it is used by his relatives for trafficking and money laundering.

This episode in Turkey comes a few weeks after that of Venezuela where relatives of Haftar have exchanged dollars for gold bars.

It is mostly the sons of Haftar, Khaled, Saddam, Al Siddik and a handful of nearby officers who use the Falcon to carry out their business.

The goal is, according to several specialists, to “finance and preserve the politico-military entity” established by Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya.

“Business activism

What was Khalifa Haftar’s private plane doing in Turkey when President Erdogan and Haftar seem to be the worst enemies?

Many in eastern Libya believe this Turkish connection of the Haftar family is part of “business activism” to raise cash.

Is it the sale of Libyan gold?

The hypothesis is widely shared in some circles in Benghazi.

Saddam Haftar is known to illegally sell scrap metal and oil to Turkey.

According to a report by the UN expert group, this traffic had earned him 1.5 billion Turkish pounds. Khalifa Haftar’s son had even met the Turkish intelligence chief before the May 2019 offensive launched to seize Tripoli.

Emirati banks

These disturbing connections of those close to Haftar are not limited to Turkey.

Libyan gold would also be sold through Saddam Haftar to the Emirates for weapons, mercenaries and dollars.

The ANL’s banking deals go through Khaled and Saddam Haftar’s accounts through Emirati banks.

Libya is the second largest reserve of gold in Africa.

The al-Owaynat mountain range, located on the border with Sudan and Egypt, forms a huge deposit.

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Money stolen from a central bank in Benghazi found in France

A French couple was arrested in early October in Limoges with 20,000 euros in moldy banknotes in their possession.

Banknotes which come from the stock looted in the central bank of Benghazi in Libya, at the end of 2017.

At the time, the city center where the establishment is located had been taken from the Islamists by the forces of Khalifa Haftar. And witnesses accuse the son of the strong man from the east of the country of having seized this liquidity which is flowing from Europe.

At the end of 2017, downtown Benghazi was still deserted, water was flowing in the streets including the one where the central bank was located.

Reliable sources had then argued that the looting of this bank was the work of Khalifa Haftar’s son, which a report by the UN group of experts confirmed in September 2018.

Transfer to an unknown location

According to this report, Saddam Khalifa Haftar, who heads the 106 Brigade of the Libyan National Army, ordered the transfer of this money to an unknown location.

He was helped by members of the Libyan National Army (ANL) under high security protection.

Still according to the UN report, the contents of this bank are estimated at 640 million Libyan dinars, 160 million euros and two million dollars, plus 6,000 silver coins.

Not the first looting?

This bank was under the authority of the Deputy Minister of the Interior, Faraj Gaim, imprisoned by Khalifa Haftar’s forces shortly before the looting.

As for Saddam Khalifa Haftar, this is not the first time that he has been accused of robbing a bank.

He already did it in Tripoli in 2011, where he was slightly injured.

The moldy money circulating in France and Germany therefore most likely originated from the central bank of Benghazi.

It remains to be seen how he got there.

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Libyan Militia Leader Ideal Client for Venezuela’s Gold-for-Dollars Deals

A Libyan militia commander allegedly trading US dollars for Venezuelan gold adds to mounting evidence that President Nicolás Maduro now welcomes all buyers in his effort to sell off the country’s reserves of the precious metal.

The Libyan and US governments have tracked the private jet of Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, to Venezuela, according to an exclusive Wall Street Journal report.

The jet is suspected of having picked up illegal gold, carrying it to Europe and then the Middle East, according to European, Libyan and US security officials who spoke to the newspaper.

The United States started looking into these reports in June, according to Reuters.

Economic sanctions slapped on President Maduro and other key members of his administration have hit the regime’s finances hard, forcing them to seek out other sources of cash.

Reports say Haftar’s associates flew on multiple occasions to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, according to flight-tracking information cited in the Wall Street Journal. The gold was then shipped to vaults in Switzerland and the Middle East.

Haftar was previously a high-ranking member of Libya’s military under the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi, the late Libyan leader who was captured and killed in 2011.

After becoming commander of the Libyan National Army, Haftar has since taken over large parts of eastern Libya and remains engaged in a civil war with the UN-backed Government of National Accord.

InSight Crime Analysis

The allegations of the dollars-for-gold trade with Haftar follows a pattern of Maduro’s regime selling gold to players in the Middle East.

Haftar fits the bill as a prospective trading partner: He is currently fighting the UN-backed government in Libya, and he is supported by Russia and the United Arab Emirates, which have also helped Venezuela sidestep US sanctions by buying its oil and gold.

The Maduro government also has been draining the gold reserves of the Venezuelan Central Bank (Banco Central de Venezuela — BCV) in exchange for oil and refinery parts from Iran.

In June, the United States sanctioned five Iranian ship captains who delivered 1.5 million barrels of gasoline to Venezuela to block Iran’s energy trade and to put further pressure on Maduro, Reuters reported.

The investigation into Haftar’s alleged bartering of US dollars for illegal gold adds to the already complex links between Venezuela and powerful actors in the Middle East.

In May, Adel El Zabayar, a former Venezuelan congressman, was indicted in the United States for reportedly acting as a go-between for Maduro and groups in the Middle East, such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

As Venezuela’s oil production has dried up, Maduro has increasingly relied on minerals like gold to keep his government afloat.

He has even turned a blind eye to dissident elements of the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia — FARC) and guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional — ELN) controlling illegal mining deposits in the country.

The illicit gold has created a criminal pipeline for funds that have proven critical to his government’s survival amid continued sanctions.

In addition, Maduro finds himself increasingly cornered after the capture of one of his most trusted financiers in early June.

In the face of growing economic constraints, the shadowy Colombian businessman Álex Saab had helped Maduro’s government negotiate gold sales with Turkey, among other dealings.

As the pressure mounts on Maduro, it would come as little surprise to see his government working with other US-defined bad actors in the Middle East like Haftar to secure much-needed funds.

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