By Ria Novosti
Italy’s Unicredit bank said on Tuesday it was ready to freeze the voting rights of its Libyan shareholders if the European Union decides to extend financial sanctions against the country’s long-standing president, Muammar Gaddafi.
EU member states agreed on Tuesday to extend sanctions on Libya to include a number of financial institutions, including the Libyan Investment Authority (a $70 billion sovereign wealth fund) and the Libyan Central Bank. The leaders of the 27 member states will confirm the measure on Friday.
The Libyan Central Bank holds a 4.98% share in Unicredit, while the Libyan Investment Authority holds 2.59%. The assets are estimated to be worth around $40 billion.
Libyan Central Bank head Omer Bengdara, who also holds a top position in the Investment Authority, is the vice chairman of Unicredit’s board of directors.
Media reports say that Unicredit’s management temporarily halted all contact with and the bank’s Libyan shareholders after pro-Gaddafi forces began violently suppressing demonstrations against the leader in mid-February.
The EU has already imposed a range of sanctions on Gaddafi and his immediate family, and other members of the Libyan leadership. It has also imposed an arms embargo and travel bans on the country, where hundreds of thousands of people are thought to have been killed in ongoing fighting.