Saadi Gadhafi, the third-born son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, is trying to orchestrate a sale of his Toronto penthouse apartment, which remains subject to an asset freeze by the United Nations Security Council, The Globe and Mail has learned.
Mr. Gadhafi, who has resided in Istanbul since his release from a Libyan prison in 2021, has drawn up a power of attorney appointing Karim Al-Murabit, a fellow Libyan with connections to Canada, as his representative on all matters relating to the luxury condo, including a possible sale, according to the document and two people familiar with the matter.
The Globe is not identifying the sources, who are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, because their personal safety is at risk.
Mr. Gadhafi, a former soccer player known for his playboy antics and his time as commander of Libya’s special forces, originally bought the downtown penthouse for $1.55-million in 2008 – an era during which he was accepting lucrative bribes from Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. (His incarceration, which was unrelated to the SNC-Lavalin scandal, stemmed from crimes committed against demonstrators during the 2011 uprising in Libya against his father.)
In 2011, the UN Security Council imposed a financial freeze order on the Gadhafi family, including Saadi Gadhafi, and other members of Colonel Gadhafi’s regime after his ouster in Libya. The order was designed to prevent the senior Gadhafi and his inner circle from using any ill-gotten wealth, which belongs to the state, to further repress the Libyan people.
In the case of the younger Mr. Gadhafi, the UN freeze order applies to all his assets, including his Toronto condo, which effectively bars him from selling the property.
Twelve years later, that UN asset freeze remains in place and there is no evidence that the penthouse has changed hands. But Mr. Gadhafi, now 50, is strapped for cash following his imprisonment, and his decision to designate a power of attorney is part of a broader plan to sell his Toronto penthouse, the sources said.
Mr. Gadhafi’s manoeuvre, which raises questions about whether he is attempting to circumvent the UN order, comes at a time when Canada faces international criticism for its failure to find and freeze dirty money, and for its lax enforcement of international sanctions.
The document titled Special Power of Attorney For Use in Canada – a copy of which was obtained by The Globe – was registered at the Libyan consulate in Istanbul under Reference No. 75/1 on Nov. 11, 2022. The document names Al-Saadi Muammar Muhammed Gaddafi as the mandator, or the person granting the power of attorney, and Mr. Al-Murabit as the mandatary, the individual who is empowered to act in his stead.
(There is no single way to translate an Arabic name into English, which is why spellings can vary.)
“I, the undersigned, Al-Saadi Muammar Muhammed Gaddafi … hereby affirm that, acting in full legal capacity, I do make, constitute, and appoint Mr. Karim Al-Murabit … to represent me in undertaking and following up on all administrative and legal procedures vis-à-vis governmental and non-governmental departments and institutions, including courts and real estate registration departments in Canada, with regards to my apartment, which is registered under my name in Canada,” states the document.
The Globe arranged for a certified translation of the power of attorney, which is written in Arabic with some English words and characters interspersed in the text that refer to identity document numbers, dates and the apartment’s address, which is identified as 10 Navy Wharf Court, Suite 4603, in Toronto.
“The mandatary shall have the right to receive documents, collect and settle all dues in relation to the said apartment, and he shall also have the right to dispose of the apartment through sale, investment, and receipt of its price,” the document further states.
Also affixed to the power of attorney is the seal of the Libyan Government of National Unity, Mr. Gadhafi’s signature and his fingerprint. A witness attestation from Libya’s Consul General in Istanbul, Salah Al-Din Faraj Al-Kasih, appears near the bottom of the document for the purpose of authenticating Mr. Gadhafi’s signature.
The Globe attempted to reach Mr. Gadhafi for comment in four countries, but he did not reply to registered letters. Mr. Al-Murabit, who also spells his surname as Murabet, according to the sources and corporate records, also did not respond to various correspondence seeking comment.
The Libyan embassy in Ottawa and the Libyan consulate in Istanbul also did not provide responses to questions about the power of attorney.
The Department of Justice said last week that Global Affairs Canada would provide a response to The Globe’s queries. But Global Affairs Canada said on Monday the RCMP would provide answers on the matter, although the department declined to explain why the Mounties would be commenting on the government’s behalf.
The RCMP, meanwhile, has a copy of the power of attorney in its possession, according to the sources. But the Mounties wouldn’t disclose to The Globe whether they are investigating the matter, even though an attempted sale of the apartment by Mr. Gadhafi would be an apparent contravention of the UN asset freeze.
“The RCMP will only confirm the existence of an investigation only in the event that charges have been laid,” wrote Corporal Kim Chamberland in an e-mail on Thursday.
Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, confirmed that Mr. Gadhafi remains on the UN’s sanctions list and that the order freezing his assets remains in place.
“Hence all of Mr. Qadhafi’s assets are subject to freezing unless an exemption or an exception contained in paragraphs 19, 20 and/or 21 is successfully applied,” Mr. Dujarric wrote in an e-mail, making reference to specific sections of the resolution.
“You need to check with the Canadian authorities relating to that exact property,” he added.
When asked if Mr. Gadhafi is able to sell, or otherwise transfer the title of his Toronto penthouse, or if the UN was aware of any plan by him or his appointed representative to explore a possible transaction, Mr. Dujarric replied: “These are matters for the relevant Committee to consider, if and when raised to its attention through the appropriate channels.”
The UN resolution compels member states, including Canada, to “freeze without delay all funds, other financial assets and economic resources” that are owned or controlled, either directly or indirectly, by individuals on its sanctions list, Mr. Dujarric noted in his e-mail. Those provisions, he added, also apply to “individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, or by entities owned or controlled by them.”
Further, member states must “ensure that any funds, financial assets or economic resources are prevented from being made available by their nationals or by any individuals or entities within their territories, to or for the benefit of the [listed] individuals.”
For his part, Mr. Murabet lives in the United Arab Emirates but has ties to Canada. A former professional soccer player turned businessman, he is listed as a director of CardioGenics Holdings Inc., a maker of diagnostic test products. The company was incorporated in Nevada and has a service address in Caledon, Ont., according to information on its website and data contained in a U.S. corporate registry.
His biography, as posted on CardioGenics’ website, states he worked in the sporting goods industry as the owner of Lanzera Italia. It also says Mr. Murabet is co-owner of Libyan Italian Real Estate Investment Co. and a consultant and adviser to Gruppo Bonifaci, a Rome-based real estate developer. He also holds various roles at ICap Group FZC, a property development, architecture, hotel management and investment company registered in the United Arab Emirates, it adds.
Mr. Murabet has connections to other Canadian corporations as well, including Avicanna Inc., Canadian Oil Recovery & Remediation Enterprises Ltd. and Medicenna Therapeutics Corp., according to MarketScreener.com.
Property records, meanwhile, show that Mr. Gadhafi purchased the 2,218 square foot penthouse, located in the Harbour View Estates group of buildings, under the name Saadi Kaddafi, on May 7, 2008. He remains on title.
Mr. Gadhafi’s apartment, which has remained unoccupied for almost 15 years, has three bedrooms, three full bathrooms and more than one open balcony.
The penthouse, built in 2005, is furnished and has views of the nearby Rogers Centre and Lake Ontario.
Residents of Harbour View Estates also have access to amenities including a pool, tennis courts, a full-sized basketball court, a golf simulator and a bowling alley, according to information posted on the complex’s website.
Given the appreciation of Toronto real estate prices over the past 15 years, Mr. Gadhafi’s condo is worth more than its initial purchase price.
As of May 31, the real-time value of the penthouse suite is estimated at $2.11-million, according to an enhanced residential report by the Municipal Property Assessment Corp.
But the luxury condo could fetch an even higher price if put up for sale in Toronto’s hot real estate market. For instance, a penthouse condo in that same waterfront neighbourhood, with three bedrooms and three bathrooms, is listed for $3.73-million, according to data on realtor.ca.
The government of Libya, meanwhile, has long claimed that it is the rightful owner of the penthouse. A notice dated Oct. 10, 2012, which is backed by an Ontario court order, is listed on the property’s parcel register. But the title was never transferred because of the UN asset freeze.
A Libyan government enforcement agency is planning to hire a lawyer in Canada to complete that process, given Mr. Gadhafi’s decision to grant power of attorney to Mr. Murabet, said the sources.
Borden Ladner Gervais LLP represented the government of Libya when it asserted its ownership claim on Mr. Gadhafi’s condo in 2012, according to property records. But spokeswoman Tamara Costa declined to comment on whether the law firm is still acting for the government of Libya.
Mr. Gadhafi is also known for being a central figure in the SNC-Lavalin bribery scandal that rocked Canada and Libya.
SNC-Lavalin, which previously paid to have Mr. Gadhafi’s Toronto condo decorated, spent $47.7-million on cash, gifts and personal expenses for him between 2001 and 2011. In exchange, Mr. Gadhafi helped the Canadian company secure contracts worth roughly $2-billion in Libya.
In 2019, SNC’s construction unit pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and agreed to pay a $280-million fine as part of a deal with federal prosecutors. Other criminal charges against the parent company and two subsidiaries related to bribery were dropped.
(Prior to that development, then justice minister and attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet after The Globe reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his staff inappropriately pressed her to stop the criminal prosecution of the company.)
As for Mr. Gadhafi, who was once a joint venture partner of SNC-Lavalin, he fled Libya during the 2011 revolution that led to the killing of his father. After being extradited from Niger, he spent seven years in a Tripoli prison after being accused of committing crimes against protesters during the uprising.
Although Mr. Gadhafi was also accused of the 2005 murder of Libyan soccer coach Bashir Rayani, he was acquitted of that charge in 2018.
He was released from prison as part of a prisoner swap in September, 2021, but his finances remain constrained because of the UN asset freeze.
Last year, the Daily Mail reported that an Italian hotel won a court order compelling Mr. Gadhafi to pay an unpaid bill of £300,000 that dates back to 2007.
After a six-week stay at the five-star hotel when he was a soccer player, Mr. Gadhafi left without settling his invoice and abandoned his Cadillac Escalade in the parking lot, the British newspaper reported. The story also said that an agency representing Mr. Gadhafi contacted the hotel last year to have the vehicle returned.