AN INTERNATIONAL fraud solicitor today warned that events in Libya could mean the prosecution of many UK companies that had business dealings within the troubled country.
Aziz Rahman, of international fraud solicitors, Rahman Ravelli, believes that the Libyan revolution could mean penalties for many UK companies that sought to woo the Gaddafi regime to gain business.
Mr Rahman said: “Companies that have had business dealings with the Libyan authorities in the past will find their actions coming under close scrutiny now the Gaddafi regime is toppled. That could mean them being prosecuted or having assets frozen.
“The new authorities will be looking very closely at how companies conducted business with the old regime. They will want to reclaim assets that they believe rightfully belong to the Libyan people - assets that may currently be in the possession of UK companies due to their dealings with Gaddafi and his henchmen.
“It is highly likely that UK companies could find such assets becoming the subject of legal freezing orders, as the new regime and the United Nations look to put right the wrongs of the past decades. They will want to reclaim what they believe is theirs.
“With such close scrutiny of past business dealings in Libya, any bribery of the old regime's officials to secure deals will be uncovered. And that could lead to many UK companies that have previously had clean reputations facing prosecution for unethical activities that were carried out in Libya months, years, or even decades ago.
“This is the first time that anyone, apart from insiders, has ever had the chance to lift the lid on the Gaddafi regime's dealings with UK companies. And whatever is found could make things very uncomfortable for some companies in this country.
“If that is the case, such companies will have to make sure they have the very best, experienced legal advice available. International fraud cases can be long drawn, involved and complex. Companies accused of bribery or any type of business fraud in Libya will face an uphill battle to prove their innocence.
“One only has to look at Egypt. Former Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adly has been jailed for 12 years for involvement in fraudulent land deals and earlier this year the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was reportedly trying to locate assets held in the UK by ex-President Hosni Mubarak.
“Foreign governments will be keen to show support to any new Libyan regime. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has already reportedly been examining whether Goldman Sachs violated bribery laws in deals around Libya's sovereign wealth fund and in the UK, SFO Head, Richard Alderman, has already said that the unrest following the 'Arab Spring' is likely to expose evidence of contracts secured by corruption.
“Anyone who fears they may be implicated will need legal advice at an early stage. Even a small breach of local due process now or in the past - in these countries undergoing transition could lead to suspicion and investigation. But there is protection available, from simple staff training through to self-reporting to the authorities to ensure that any past mishaps or irregular payments don't lead to catastrophic consequences.”