LIA Tries to Unmask ‘Person B’ in SocGen Bribery CaseKit Chellel
Five people with links to an alleged bribery plot involving Societe Generale SA and Libya’s $60 billion sovereign wealth fund were allowed to have their names kept secret in a London lawsuit.
The Libyan Investment Authority is suing SocGen for at least $1.5 billion, saying the French lender paid kickbacks to a family friend of then-Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi to win investment deals. Societe Generale and the Qadaffi associate, Walid Giahmi, have both denied wrongdoing.
In a London court hearing Friday, Giahmi’s lawyer Paul Girolami asked a judge to include five individuals in a “confidentiality club,” meaning their names won’t be revealed to anyone other than legal advisers because of safety fears. Giahmi is concerned about “brutal violence” and kidnappings in the country, LIA lawyer Roger Masefield told the court.
The names emerged in evidence that Giahmi gave to the LIA’s lawyers about payments made by Societe Generale to his company, Leinada Inc. One individual, referred to as Person B, received some of the $58 million paid to Leinada, Masefield said.
Person B, who has British and Libyan citizenship, was Giahmi’s business partner and is “emerging as a figure of considerable importance,” Masefield said, arguing the names shouldn’t be kept confidential.
One of the other people whose identity wasn’t revealed is an “international businessman,” Masefield said. It’s not clear whether all of the five are still in Libya, or what the risks are to them or their families, he said.
Since the death of Qaddafi, Libya has suffered unrest and escalating violence. The country, holding Africa’s largest oil reserves, is split between an internationally recognized government and a rival regime backed by Islamist militias that seized the capital Tripoli in July.
Judge Henry Eder adjourned arguments about whether the names should be revealed until another court hearing on Feb. 20. He said confidentiality would remain in place until then, and the names couldn’t be shown to the LIA or anyone outside the group of lawyers.
Another lawyer for Giahmi, Kathryn Garbett, and Person B’s lawyer, Alastair Shaw, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment. George Prassas, a spokesman for the LIA, and Murray Parker, a spokesman for Societe Generale in London, declined to comment.
Giahmi’s lawyers have previously testified he didn’t receive any bribes. Paris-based SocGen has said in court papers the money was paid to Leinada for legitimate introductory and market intelligence services.
In documents outlining its claim, the LIA alleges the payments had no proper purpose and were part of a “fraudulent and corrupt scheme.”
The LIA, established by Qaddafi to invest Libya’s oil wealth, has also sued Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in London for selling derivatives the fund says turned out to be worthless. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating a number of deals between financial firms and the sovereign wealth fund.
A trial in the SocGen case is scheduled to start in 2017.
The case is The Libyan Investment Authority v Societe Generale SA, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division Commercial Court, 14-260.