Corruption in Libya

For decades, Libya has endured countless accounts of corruption committed by the government, the militia and major oil corporations. The corruption in Libya derives from what political scientists call a “resource curse,” a term used to describe a nation that tends to have less economic growth and a weaker democracy due to its abundance of natural resources. Oil production has made the nation susceptible to corruption, leading the country into a civil war due to persistent violence and political unrest. Here are ten facts about corruption in Libya.

10 Facts about Corruption in Libya

  1. In 2018, Libya ranked as 170 least corrupt out of 175 countries, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. In the same year, Libya also scored a low 17 out of 100 in the Corruption Perception Index. The corruption primarily derives from the government, the public sector and private businesses.
  2. Corruption in Libya began during Muammar Gaddafi’s rule from 1969 to 2011. Gaddafi’s regime received billions of dollars in bribes from wealthy corporations to make illegal deals in the energy sector. A total of $65 billion of Libya’s wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), was held in private accounts instead of going toward public expenditures. While Gaddafi’s regime was profiting off of Libya’s national assets, more than 40 percent of the Libyan population lived below the poverty line.
  3. Eighty percent of Libya’s GDP and 99 percent of government revenue comes from oil production. In 2018, foreign exports of oil in Libya brought in revenues totaling $24.5 billion. The central bank in Tripoli controls these funds and is responsible for disbursing them throughout the country, but at the time there were no laws in Libya that demand the transparency of the bank to disclose the use of state funds with their constituents.
  4. Libya has anti-corruption laws; however, lax enforcement permits widespread corruption practices such as embezzlement and bribery among the public procurement sector. According to Libya’s Criminal Code, the Law on Economic Crimes and the Law on Abuse of Position or Occupation, “the abuse by a public official of his or her position or functions to obtain a benefit for himself or herself or for others” is established as an offense. Despite anti-corruption laws, the weakness of Libya’s institutional framework has given leeway to Libyan officials to misappropriate funds. Head of Organisation for Development of Administrative Centres (ODAC) Ali Ibrahim Dabaiba misappropriated nearly $7 billion in national assets and laundered them into personal bank accounts abroad. These funds were designated to go toward Libya’s public infrastructure, but Dabaiba instead put the money toward his interests, such as purchasing luxury hotels in Scotland.
  5. Corruption in Libya remains rampant even after the revolution and the assassination of Gaddafi in 2011. After the first civil war, violence and political instability persisted throughout Libya, and government ministers and the military have conflicted control of the country. General Khalifa Haftar is the leader of the militant offensive, and he promises to combat Islamist militias. However, through mobilizing the military to fight armed groups throughout the country and seize control of major cities, violence became even more prevalent and a second civil war was initiated in 2014. Haftar’s group, the Libyan National Army (LNA), has attacked several sites in the city of Tripoli. His military force has killed a total of 443 people, injuring more than 2,000, and displacing nearly 60,000 civilians in pursuit of gaining control over the territory.
  6. Corruption in law enforcement is also prevalent in Libya. Several reports show police officers engaging in malpractice including bribery, embezzlement, nepotism and extortion. According to a survey conducted by the Departments of Research and Studies of Organization for Transparency Libya, respondents ranked the police highest in spreading corruption. Some cases of police corruption that researchers discovered include police officers stopping drivers, seizing their drivers’ licenses and extorting drivers in exchange for their licenses.
  7. Activists and media workers across the nation of Libya are being silenced. In 2017, 11 out of 18 political, civil, and human rights activists and personalities, polled by the Human Rights Watch in Tripoli and Zawiyah, claimed to have been threatened by state militia, government, and armed groups, three have been attacked or harassed, and nine claims to fear for their lives after receiving threats. In 2016, the Libyan Center for Freedom of the Press (LCFP) reported that 107 media workers were attacked by armed groups including two journalists who were killed.
  8. Transparency International is one of the major organizations combating corruption in Libya. They aim to stop corruption in governments, businesses, and civil societies through the “creation of international anti-corruption conventions and the prosecution of corrupt leaders and seizures of their illicitly gained riches.” They have pushed legislation that has made bribing foreign officials illegal by enforcing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention, which requires members to outlaw bribery of officials. For instance, In 2017, an investigation in France on Société Générale bank was opened because of its payment of $58.5 million to a Panama-registered company as part of a scheme to secure its business in Libya. A settlement was reached, and Société Générale committed to pay a total of €500 million to close this procedure.
  9. Civil Initiatives Libya (CIL) is a project that aims to empower and support civil society organizations (CSO). CIL is funded by the European Union and implemented by ACTED in 15 different municipalities in Libya. This initiative is imperative to solving corruption because CSOs are able to promote civic engagement and local governance, which can increase the fairness of the Libyan government. CIL centers provide facilities, technical assistance and funding to over 700 CSOs across Libya. In 2012, over 1,400 NGO representatives benefited from CIL’s facilities and training services. The project also involves hosting CSO events, workshops and training that revolves around women and youth empowerment. CIL has expanded the capacity of many CSOs and has made them strong and politically visible enough to be able to lobby the government and acquire funding from the national budget.
  10. Global Witness is a nonprofit that works to protect human rights by exposing corruption in nations that have an abundance of natural resources, including Libya. Their work involves holding hard-hitting investigations on corruption scandals in pursuit of holding corrupt leaders accountable. Their strategies include secret filming, satellite imagery and drone footage, data analysis of companies, and using anonymous sources. Through their resources, Global Witness is able to release detailed investigations on corruption all over the world and advocate for those who are victims of corruption by launching campaigns that bring awareness to global injustices. In 2002, Global Witness, Transparency International and many other NGOs co-launched the Publish What You Pay campaign, which mandates oil, gas and mining companies around the world to disclose their net taxes, fees, royalties and other payments. This campaign led to the creation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Since its launch, the EITI has put $2.4 trillion of oil, gas and mining revenues in the public domain.

These 10 facts about corruption in Libya illustrate the prevalence of abuse and fraudulence in Libya. However, even though corruption still permeates Libya’s institutions, efforts from around the world continue to prevent any further corruption by holding public officials accountable for their crimes.

If support from nonprofits, civil societies and advocates persists, Libya may be able to mobilize their local governments to sustain a better democracy and resist violent and corrupt regimes.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Dhaka Tribune