By Ashraf Abdul Wahab and Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 12 March 2014:
Former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan left Libya last night and headed for . . .[restrict]Europe, after the General National Congress (GNC) passed a vote of no-confidence against him.
Zeidan flew first to Malta, where he spent two hours waiting for his plane to refuel, according to the Maltese press.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that he had briefly spoken to Zeidan who, he said, was en route to another European country.
By leaving Libya, Zeidan flouted a travel ban imposed by Attorney General Abdel Qadar Radwan. The ban, directed to the head of the Passports Agency, was issued last night. It said Zeidan was to be prevented from leaving the country until ongoing investigations into financial irregularities had been completed.
An airport source told the Libya Herald that Zeidan left from Tripoli International Airport last night at 9pm. He said that authorities at the airport had been tricked into allowing the private jet to both land and depart.
“The private plane put in a call to Tripoli Air Traffic Control requesting permission to land to pick up some diplomatic persons, whose names were not given,” a source said. The plane was given permission to land in a special area of the airport set aside for VIP flights, and a member of the airport’s immigration staff was sent to check the passports of the diplomatic person or persons leaving, he said.
When the official arrived at the plane, however, he was apparently grabbed and held until the plane had safely taken off, the source said.
The investigations cited by the Attorney General as prompting the travel ban appear to relate to allegations that money was offered to armed groups controlling three oil export terminals in the east of the country to end their blockades. Ibrahim Jadhran, the self-styled leader of the federalists occupying the ports, accused GNC Energy Committee head Naji Mukhtar and the government of trying to bribe him with LD 30 million to end the blockade in September last year.
Zeidan denied any involvement but Mukhtar admitted giving a number of cheques to one of Jadhran’s brothers Salem. He said that these could not be considered bribery because the accounts held insufficient funds for them to be honoured. One cheque for LD2.5 million was, however, reportedly cashed. [/restrict]