Karim Murabet, the man who has power of attorney to sell Saadi Gadhafi’s Toronto penthouse, says he was unaware until recently the luxury property remains subject to an asset freeze by the United Nations Security Council and has since halted plans for a sale.
Mr. Murabet, 64, confirmed that Mr. Gadhafi, 50, the third-born son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, asked for his help to explore a sale of his condo. But Mr. Murabet insisted that he was only making inquiries on Mr. Gadhafi’s behalf and denied he was trying to help him evade UN sanctions that have been in place since 2011.
His comments, however, raise questions about Canada’s approach to enforcing international sanctions, underscoring the urgency for the federal government to decide whether the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada needs new powers to counter sanctions evasion. Ottawa outlined its intention to hold a review as part of the federal budget and plans to provide an update of its plans this fall.
“We weren’t really attempting to sell this condominium. We were just seeing what the laws are and if it’s possible or not,” Mr. Murabet said in a telephone interview on Sunday from the United Arab Emirates.
“I wouldn’t go against the law. You know, I have children. I have a business, I’m a working man.”
The Globe and Mail reported on Saturday that Mr. Gadhafi was trying to orchestrate a sale of his downtown penthouse that he originally bought for $1.55-million in 2008.
Specifically, Mr. Gadhafi drew up a power of attorney appointing Karim Al-Murabit, a businessman of Libyan origin, as his representative on all matters relating to the condo, including a possible sale, the story said citing a copy of the document and two people familiar with the matter.
The Globe attempted to reach Mr. Gadhafi for comment in four countries, but he has not replied to registered letters. For his part, Mr. Murabet said that he initially didn’t respond to The Globe on the advice of his Dubai-based lawyers.
During the 45-minute interview, however, Mr. Murabet confirmed that he is the person named in the power of attorney, noting there is no single way to translate his name. He also explained his connection to Mr. Gadhafi, who he’s known since Mr. Gadhafi’s time as a soccer player in Italy.
“It’s a person that I knew. I didn’t say he’s a buddy of mine,” Mr. Murabet said.
Still, the two men were familiar enough for Mr. Murabet to visit Mr. Gadhafi in Istanbul last year. To receive security clearance from Turkish authorities, Mr. Murabet said he provided Mr. Gadhafi with a copy of his passport. (His passport number was cited in the power of attorney.)
During their visit, Mr. Murabet said Mr. Gadhafi asked him whether he could look into the possibility of selling his Toronto condo, which he considers a “headache.”
“He just wants to get rid of it. He even asked me, ‘You think you can rent it?’” Mr. Murabet said.
Although Mr. Murabet agreed to explore those options, he said that he was unaware that Mr. Gadhafi planned to grant him power of attorney. He says that Mr. Gadhafi sent a copy after a “few weeks” simply to assist his efforts.
“I don’t even have an original copy,” Mr. Murabet said. “He sent me a WhatsApp copy, you know, a picture.”
Mr. Murabet said he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong because affixed to the power of attorney is a Libyan government seal, while Mr. Gadhafi’s signature was authenticated by Libya’s Consul General in Istanbul.
He then asked other people to make queries with Canadian lawyers, who offered mixed messages – “some said yes, some told me no” – about whether a sale was possible.
“Some lawyer told me ‘Maybe they can put it in your name.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want it in my name,’” Mr. Murabet said.
Additionally, Mr. Murabet contacted a female real estate agent in Toronto, who he declined to name, to learn more about the property.
When asked if he was aware of the UN asset freeze when he agreed to help Mr. Gadhafi, Mr. Murabet replied: “I’m aware, I’m not aware – I don’t really know. I mean, it’s just something written … It was like 10 years ago. But the moment I found out, you know, through lawyers, then we stopped.”
The power of attorney was registered at the Libyan consulate in Istanbul on Nov. 11, 2022. But Mr. Murabet said he only found out some 10 to 15 days ago that a sale would violate sanctions.
Mr. Murabet also said that he never had any intention of taking money from Mr. Gadhafi, although he advised him that it would be normal to pay a commission to a real estate agent and to pay lawyers’ fees, as long as they provided proper invoices.
“I never had any bank transfers from Saadi,” Mr. Murabet said. “He respects me for that because I’m not, you know, like one of the guys hanging around him to get some money off him.”
Mr. Gadhafi had that experience with the previous person he had granted power of attorney to for the purposes of selling his apartment, Mr. Murabet said, adding he believes that man was a Libyan living in Toronto.
“He told me he gave [it] to some idiot and the guy, you know, tried to just do it for his own benefit and make money out of it. And he said, ‘You know, Karim, I trust you more than anybody.’”
Mr. Murabet also says he received assurances from Mr. Gadhafi that he had paid for the condo with his own money, rather than from Libyan state funds.
“He’s not a thug, he’s a very shy person. I mean, if you meet him, you’ll be, you know, astonished – the guy’s not what people say,” Mr. Murabet said.
“He got out of Libya because he wanted to be a normal human being. He doesn’t like his name.”
Mr. Gadhafi is currently living in a villa in Istanbul and receives a generous sum of money each month from the Turkish government, Mr. Murabet said, refuting assertions that Mr. Gadhafi is strapped for cash.
“He’s living a high standard of life.”
With files from Stephanie Chambers