Muammar Gaddafi.

Johannesburg - The DA intends applying to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) to “get sight” of all documents distributed to the United Nations relating to Libyan financial interests in South Africa, specifically those concerning slain Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

“As the South African body responsible for providing financial intelligence for use in the fight against crime, money laundering and terror financing, I trust the FIC will have all relevant information available at their fingertips,” Democratic Alliance spokesman Tim Harris said in a statement on Wednesday.

The application would be made in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

“The PAIA application is necessary since [Finance Minister Pravin] Gordhan has denied my request for a full investigation into the Gaddafi billions in South Africa,” he said.

The decision was made after it emerged that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa knew about the presence of Gaddafi's former chief of staff Bashir Saleh in South Africa as early as February.

This was according to a reply by Mthethwa to a DA parliamentary question on Tuesday.

The DA asked Mthethwa if he was informed of Saleh's presence in the country at any point since October 20, 2011, and if so, on what occasion.

Mthethwa replied: “Yes” and “during February 2013”.

Another questioned posed by the DA was: “Why was the specified person [Saleh] not arrested... why was his presence not detected by crime intelligence?”

Mthethwa replied: “The Interpol red notice is not an international arrest warrant which allows for immediate arrest. Once a fugitive is detected, a provisional arrest warrant should be requested and provided through Interpol channels, followed by original documentation between the competent authorities through diplomatic channels.”

Mthethwa said requests for clarity on whether this specific person was still wanted, and to provide the required documentation, were sent through Interpol communication channels to Libya.

“These requests are still to be answered,” he said.

There was no extradition treaty in place between South Africa and Libya.

The DA also asked the minister if he knew Saleh was on Interpol's most wanted list.

Mthethwa responded that Interpol did not have “a so-called most wanted list”.

He said once the presence of a person, whose name was circulated on the Interpol red notice database, was detected in the country, the relevant Interpol national central bureau was informed that the fugitive might be found.

The validity of the case against the fugitive was also questioned, he said.

If the case was valid, a provisional arrest warrant through Interpol channels was requested for South African police to arrest the fugitive.

Mthethwa's spokesman Zweli Mnisi could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Harris said Mthethwa's response contradicted a statement made in Parliament last week by President Jacob Zuma, that South Africa was not able to monitor or prevent the movements of Saleh.

On June 2, the Sunday Times reported that assets worth billions belonging to Gaddafi were thought to be held by South African banks.

It reported that Libyan investigators had found evidence that more than US1 billion (about R10bn) in cash, gold and diamonds was being held by four South African banks and two local security companies.

Libyan embassy official Salah Marghani told the Sunday Times investigators had “been appointed to investigate and secure assets in Africa on behalf of the people of Libya”.

The newspaper published extracts of letters from Libya's justice and finance ministers to their South African counterparts, asking for help finding assets linked to Gaddafi which might “have been illegally possessed, obtained, looted, deposited or hidden in South Africa”.

Gaddafi was killed in 2011 during a political uprising in Libya.

Saleh has reportedly been allowed to travel in and out of South Africa to attend the ANC's centenary dinner in Mangaung and the BRICS summit in Durban.