Libya Accuses Goldman Sachs of Bribery in Bid to Appeal Lawsuit

  • Judge says appeal based bribery claim has no chance of success
  • LIA told to pay invesment bank at least $10.6 million in costs

The Libyan Investment Authority tried to resurrect its lawsuit against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. by adding new accusations of bribery, less than a month after a crushing courtroom defeat in London.

But Judge Vivien Rose said at a hearing Friday that the appeal had no chance of success and ordered the sovereign wealth fund to pay Goldman at least 8.5 million pounds ($10.6 million) for legal costs. The LIA has one last chance to keep its lawsuit alive, by making a direct application to the appeals court.

Libya’s $60 billion oil wealth fund lost its two-year legal battle in October, when Judge Rose ruled that Goldman Sachs wasn’t to blame for $1.2 billion in losses from derivatives trades. During the trial, the LIA accused Goldman of influencing its officials with gifts, hospitality and the offer of an internship for a Libyan executive’s brother.

Rose didn’t properly consider whether or not the offer of an internship to the brother of an LIA executive “constituted a bribe as a matter of civil law,” LIA lawyer Roger Masefield said at the hearing, setting out grounds for an appeal. Even if the offer was not the only factor to influence LIA executive Mustafa Zarti, the intern’s brother, it may have tipped the balance in Goldman’s favor, which is enough, Masefield said.

Goldman Sachs lawyer Robert Miles was in the middle of his response when Judge Rose interrupted him.

“I’m not going to grant permission to appeal,” she said.

In the October judgment, she said that Goldman offered the internship to Haitem Zarti because it believed he was going become the head of the LIA’s office in London.

“There is no real prospect of success” in an appeal, she said.

The LIA’s lawyers can apply directly to the Court of Appeal, which will decide whether to hear its case.

“The judgment clearly established that the internship did not have a material influence on the decision of Mr. Zarti and the LIA” to enter into the trades, said Sebastian Howell, a London-based spokesman for Goldman Sachs.

George Prassas, a spokesman for the LIA, declined to immediately comment at the hearing.

Goldman agreed to give the position to Haitem shortly before Zarti agreed to derivative investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The LIA lost virtually everything it invested with Goldman when markets crashed in the 2008 crisis.

Earlier in the Friday court hearing, Goldman Sachs asked the judge to approve an interim payment of 10.5 million pounds to cover legal costs totaling about 17.5 million pounds from the trial. Judge Rose ordered the LIA to make the initial payment of 8.5 million pounds, with the final figure to be determined later.

Libya’s lawsuit made international headlines amid allegations that Goldman bankers had exploited the inexperience of Libyan officials to make profits of as much as $200 million while the LIA lost everything. Ultimately, Judge Rose decided that Goldman’s relationship with the LIA wasn’t unusual and that the fund was responsible for ensuring that the trades were suitable.

The LIA is also suing French bank Societe Generale SA in London over billion-dollar trading losses. That case is at the pre-trial stage.

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