The British government has emerged to have pressured the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to acquit the nephew of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi over financial fears.
The Labour government under Tony Blair lobbied for the release of Mohammed al-Sanussi, the son of Qaddafi’s intelligence chief, in August 2007 when BP was negotiating a £15 billion oil and gas deal with Libya.
Blair himself reportedly visited Libya and held talks with Qaddafi on the issue at the time as al-Sanussi was waiting for a trial over assaulting two women at his home in London.
Al-Sanussi is the son of Qaddafi’s brother-in-law who has directed the last week killings of Libyans in the country’s second city Benghazi.
British legal sources insisted they did not back off under government pressure that was saying “do the right thing and don’t prosecute this case”.
Sir Ken MacDonald who was the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of England and Wales at the time said they received written advice from senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to drop al-Sanussi’s charges over concerns that a ruling could harm Britain’s financial interests.
“We are aware that the decision to prosecute or not is entirely a matter for you but there are significant diplomatic and commercial considerations in this case in relation to the Libyan government, which you may not be aware of,” the Daily Mail quoted one of the letters as saying.
“You have to be aware of the implications of this and the potential consequences in relation to your decision-making,” it added.
The FCO even handed warnings from the Libyan government to the DPP.
The CPS, however, did begin the trial though all charges against al-Sanussi were dropped in ten days after the two plaintiffs withdrew their evidence.
After the case was closed, Selva Ramasamy, the lead prosecution barrister, said he was told by the defense counsel “that the Libyans had threatened to take a number of extreme steps in relation to BP’s negotiations in Libya and possible severing of diplomatic relations”.
Even it appeared that Qaddafi had raised the issue during his talks with Blair on his final foreign trip as PM in June 2007.
After al-Sanussi’s release, his two plaintiffs revealed that they were threatened by Libyan agents to withdraw their complaints or face the consequences.
Karen Etchebery, one of the plaintiffs said the police had told her about al- Sanussi’s father.
“He’s a powerful man. In the end, if the guy is going to do something bad, it’s going to be just me. He’s not going to kill any police. He’s just going to kill me,” Etchebery added.
Critics have repeatedly hit out at the former Labour administrations for their close ties with the BP which analysts say may have led London to even facilitate the release of the Libyan Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison.
The FCO has confirmed its role in passing London’s concerns over al-Sanussi’s case to the DPP.
“We confirm the Foreign and Commonwealth legal adviser wrote to the DPP on this case and passed on any representations made to us on behalf of the defendant. It is a standard procedure,” a spokesman said.