Tyrant’s son and secrets that could now haunt his British friends
Britain’s political elite could face acute embarrassment if Colonel Gaddafi’s favourite son and heir ends up in the The Hague on war crimes charges.
Saif al-Islam, 39, faces trial for killing, injuring, arresting and imprisoning hundreds of civilians during the protests.
Any court appearance will almost inevitably lead to further revelations over the lengths the British establishment – including Prince Andrew – went to in cosying up to the oil-rich state.
In an echo of the final days of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, prosecutors are sure to be asked to wade through thousands of Libyan government files detailing its decades of murky dealings.
Saif was a key player in Libya’s campaign to end its pariah status and renounce nuclear weapons. He became close to leading figures in the British government after Tony Blair signed the notorious ‘Deal in the Desert’. The March 2004 accord saw British firms such as BP and Shell sign massive contracts with the Libyans.
Mr Blair’s visit led to negotiations over a prisoner transfer agreement which ultimately paved the way for the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi.
Saif, a former playboy who still owns a £10million house in London, last year described Mr Blair as a ‘personal family friend’ who he said had visited Libya ‘many, many times’ since leaving Downing Street four years ago.
He even claimed that Mr Blair had become an adviser to his family, an allegation which the former PM denied.
Lord Mandelson’s relationship with Saif could also come under the spotlight.
The pair met days before it emerged that Megrahi was to be freed. They were both guests of billionaire financiers Jacob and Nat Rothschild at their Corfu villa in the summer of 2009.
Lord Mandelson, then Business Secretary, even admitted discussing Megrahi’s case with Saif though he insists there was no negotiation. Gaddafi’s son accompanied Megrahi on a flight from Glasgow to Tripoli after the release of the bomber.
In a damning transcript of a conversation obtained by a Sunday newspaper between the pair, Saif told the freed bomber that his name had been ‘on the table in all commercial, oil and gas agreements we supervised during this period’.
Weeks later Saif and Lord Mandelson attended a shooting party at the Rothschilds’ chateau-style mansion in Buckinghamshire.
Should Saif take the witness box in The Hague, he could even try to include Prince Andrew in his ‘web of friends’.
The Duke of York was accused of holding secret ‘detailed discussions’ over the release of the Lockerbie bomber with Saif in 2009. The alleged royal intervention in the controversial affair came while the prince was on an official Foreign Office-sponsored trip to Algeria to open Britain’s new embassy in the country.
Libyan government officials said Saif made a special visit to Algiers to discuss the developments with the prince, who was Britain’s special representative on trade and investment. Buckingham Palace denied any meetings or discussions had taken place.
The links to Britain go back as far as the 1970s and 1980s when Libya supported terrorist organisations, including the IRA, in violent campaigns against Western democracies.
During his time in London, Saif studied at the London School of Economics from 2003 to 2008, gaining both a Master of Science degree and a doctorate.
But even his ties with the prestigious university were mired in controversy. The LSE was heavily criticised last year for agreeing to train hundreds of Libya’s future elite. A £2.2million contract was signed with Libya’s Economic Development Board in 2007 for LSE staff to train Libyan civil servants and professionals.
It also accepted an offer of £1.5million in instalments from Saif in 2009 after he was awarded a PhD the previous year. His thesis is now being investigated following claims of plagiarism.
A total of £300,000 was received, which the university later agreed to pay back to the Libyan people in the form of scholarships.
Saif’s financial dealings in Britain might also be exposed in more detail at The Hague.