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Parliament, Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma insisted on Wednesday that he knows nothing about billions of dollars reportedly cached in South Africa by former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Responding to questions on the matter in the National Assembly on Wednesday, he repeatedly told MPs: “I don't know.”
Zuma said the presidency had been approached by officials from the Libyan government “regarding purported sums of money allegedly deposited on behalf of the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and held by banking institutions in South Africa”.
He said these officials had been referred to the finance ministry.
In a statement last week, the National Treasury said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had agreed with the Libyan government “that the repatriation from South Africa of Libyan funds and assets will be handled in terms of United Nations protocols”.
It said this was agreed to at a meeting on June 4 between Gordhan and a Libyan government delegation led by Usama al Abid, minister in the office of the Libyan Prime Minister.
Zuma was asked in the House on Wednesday about the reported involvement of African National Congress security head Tito Maleka in the repatriation of the money.
“Can you shed light on the connection between the ANC party and the recovery of the money?” asked Congress of the People MP Leonard Ramatlakane.
The president responded: “”With regard to (this), I don't know. This has not come to my ears, that some ANC head of security was involved. So I don't know about it.”
On its front page on Sunday, City Press newspaper reported that Gaddafi may have “stockpiled more than US10 billion (about R100 bn) in South Africa and its neighbouring states”.
It said two Libyan factions were at the centre of a fight over the slain dictator's hidden assets. According to reports, Gaddafi, his family and friends stashed away more than US100bn during his 42-year rule.
According to City Press, Libyan investigators “believe that a sizeable chunk of it was hidden in southern African banks, companies and trusts”.
Further, that “crates with gold and cash came via private planes into South Africa” from Libya during Gaddafi's rule of that country.
The newspaper also reported the alleged involvement of Maleka in Libyan attempts to recover the money.
Asked if he could say to whom the money actually belonged, Zuma said he also did not know.
“With regard to whether the money belongs to Colonel Gaddafi, or the (Libyan) state, I also don't know. I don't know how this money came here (or) who is the owner of it.
“The only thing I've answered is that Libyan officials have come asking for what they know was here - and, apparently, yes, it is - and therefore the arrangements how this must be taken back.
“As to whether it belongs to an individual or the state, I don't know.”
Earlier, Zuma said the Libyan government established a body last year “to co-ordinate the repatriation of assets to Libya in line with UN protocols”.
To a further question on why the money was in South Africa, Zuma also had no answer.
“I don't know why Gaddafi or Libya's money is here. I don't know. I was never involved in what caused the money to be here,” he said. - Sapa