Government gets Christmas deadline to start moves for Docklands IRA bombing compensation from Libya
PUBLISHED: 19:54 23 November 2018 | UPDATED: 20:19 23 November 2018
Victims of the Libyan-sponsored IRA bombing of Canary Wharf aren't getting a penny from Gaddafi's assets held in London despite reports that some funds have been released in other countries, it has emerged.
A Parliamentary committee of MPs has now set a Christmas deadline for the government to start negotiating with the Libyans 22 years after the bombing to release some of the £12 billion held in the UK.
Families on Millwall’s Barkantine estate which took the full blast that destroyed the nearby Midland Bank HQ at South Quays in 1996 have been campaigning for 12 years for compensation.
Hopes were dashed during the fall of Gaddafi in 2011 with the British government refusing to allow his cash to be used, as a member of the UN Security Council which had put a lock on the assets.
But Foreign Office minster Alistair Burt was quizzed by the Northern Ireland Affairs committee on Tuesday about reports that Britain was one of five countries releasing interest revenue from the assets—with nothing going to victims.
“The Libyans asked for assets to remain frozen as they fear elements of the former Gaddafi regime would get their hands on it,” he said. “Nobody knew where the money would go.
“People in Libya said, ‘for goodness sake don’t put money into banks because we don’t know where it will end up’. It would be skimmed off.”
Assets held in London cannot be used for Docklands victims—unlike cash paid out to French, German and American victims—because the Libyans “weren’t directly involved” in the IRA atrocity in Canary Wharf, even though they supplied the semtex, the committee was told.
But Belgium was said to have released interest payments from assets held in Brussels.
Nicholas Williams, Head of North Africa affairs at the Foreign Office, told the MPs: “The destination of that money is unknown. That’s the reason why the Libyans asked for the funds to be frozen in the first place, fearing former regime elements would get their hands on the money and spirit it away to an inappropriate place.”
The committee’s chair Dr Andrew Murrison quipped: “I don’t think anybody is suggesting the money ‘disappearing’ into the hands of victims would be an ‘inappropriate’ place.”
Lady Hermon put forward a deadline by the end of the year for all government departments to get together to start serious negotiations with Libya to compensate Docklands and other IRA victims.
“Christmas this year—not next year, but Christmas 2018,” she told the minister.
“Can we have a government that says, ‘Right, we are going to help—this is what we are going to do’? We want a government that does something to help those who have suffered enough.”
The Docklands Victims Association tonight slammed “government inaction”.
Its founder Jonathan Ganesh, a former Midland Bank security guard injured in the 1996 bombing, told the East London Advertiser: “Other countries have released the interest revenue from the Gaddafi assets, but we still wait for help despite having a signed contract from the Libyans.
“I’m appalled with the lack of firm government commitment to resolve this terrible lack of equality. The government claims it’s ‘a private matter’ when its citizens are killed or maimed by Gaddafi and IRA terrorism.”
American victims had been paid between $2m and $4m each in 2006. Those injured for life by the Docklands bombing also want justice for their suffering.