By Sami Zaptia.
London, 18 June 2017:
The chairman of the privately-owned Assaraya Trade and Investment Bank (ATIB – know more commonly as Assaraya bank), Nomaan El-Bouri and two of his fellow senior bankers were illegally detained overnight in Tripoli.
The bank was holding their annual Ramadan iftar dinner at Tripoli’s Corinthia hotel Saturday evening when they were picked up by members of Ghenaiwa Kikli’s Busleem brigade. However, thanks to frantic phone calls Haithem Tajuri and Hashem Bisher intervened and all were released by 6 am this morning.
There is confusion as to the reason behind their arrest. Sources have said that they were questioned about the number of Documentary Letters of Credit (LCs) the bank had opened, amongst other things.
LCs are opened through customers’ account branch but ultimately have to be approved by the Central Bank of Libya. LCs are much sought after in view of Libya’s hard currency shortage as they are opened at the official exchange rate of US$ 1.4 to the dollar – as opposed to the black market rate of around LD 8 per dollar.
Sources at the bank said that they had nothing to hide and were happy to cooperate with any official body. They had wished that the investigation was conducted in a more civilized manner through a letter or by calling at the bank during opening hours or through the Public Prosecutor’s Office – rather than being picked up in the middle of the night.
Bank sources reported that the detained were treated in a very civilized manner once they were detained and were instructed to report for further questioning today.
With unconfirmed reports yesterday that officials purported to be representing the US embassy were carrying out checks on the security situation in Tripoli, the illegal detention of a leading Libyan banker by militias (not holding an official arrest warrant) highlights the weakness of official state institutions and the precarious security situation in Tripoli.