SocGen Rang ‘Fridge’ on His Secret Phone, Libya Fund Saysby
Qaddafi son’s associate said to use codenames, covert lines
Libya fund seeks $1.5 billion from bank over investment deals
A Societe Generale SA employee called the same “secret number” used by an associate of Saif Qaddafi, the son of the former Libyan dictator, to reach a Libyan Investment Authority official, according to LIA evidence in a London lawsuit trying to link the bank to the ousted regime’s corruption.
Libya’s $60 billion sovereign wealth fund is suing the French lender for about $1.5 billion over investment deals that it says were tied to bribery and intimidation of Libyan officials. SocGen has denied the claims and says the payments were for intelligence and introductory services in an unfamiliar market.
In a pre-trial hearing Thursday, the LIA sought more information about phone records for Libyan businessman Walid Giahmi, which it said showed the true relationship he had with SocGen, the Qaddafis and the LIA. Giahmi, whose Leinada Inc. company received about $60 million from SocGen, had a phone line he used to talk to then LIA chief investment officer Hatim Gheriani, who was referred to by the code name “Fridge,” the fund said in court documents.
When a SocGen employee called the number, Gheriani berated him, saying it was “top secret” and was used by “the doctor,”’ a codename for Giahmi, according to a transcript cited by the LIA. “This is compromised now,” Gheriani said, according to the LIA.
The fund’s case against SocGen hinges on events that took place under the rule of Colonel Moammar Qaddafi, the military dictator who ruled Libya for 40 years until his death in 2011 and who created the LIA to manage the country’s oil wealth. The LIA says Giahmi used payments from SocGen to sway the fund’s investment decisions, and is trying to reclaim its losses under the deals. The fund has also sued Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in London.
Corentin Henry, a SocGen spokesman, declined to comment beyond what the bank said in its annual report, which said it firmly refuted the LIA’s allegations.
Giahmi declined to comment through his U.K. lawyer Kathryn Garbett. In court documents, his lawyers said the LIA had no reasonable basis for “unfounded” attacks on his integrity. The idea of a secret phone line was “absurd,” they said, and Giahmi had simply forgotten it existed.
Several individuals in the SocGen lawsuit have been granted anonymity by a London judge to protect their families from violence in Libya, which plunged into chaos and internecine conflict after Qaddafi’s ouster.
The feuding spilled over into the LIA’s London lawsuits, which are being managed by receivers because of a dispute over control of the fund.
The LIA said on Thursday that Giahmi, who is also being sued, should hand over more financial documents and phone records, including his text messages to Saif Qaddafi. SocGen employees referred to Saif as Giahmi’s “big boss,” the LIA said in its court papers.
Giahmi’s lawyers said his personal phone records and text messages weren’t relevant to the case, and that he didn’t have a close relationship with the Qaddafis. He argues the payments were for legitimate services.
Investment deals made by the Libyan fund are among those being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over potential breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Judge Stephen Phillips on Friday ordered Giahmi to provide the LIA with his full phone and financial records, including texts to members of the Qaddafi family, saying they were likely to be relevant to the case. A trial is scheduled to start in January.
The case is The Libyan Investment Authority v. Societe Generale SA, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division Commercial Court, 14-260.