Libyan fund manager slams Austrian asset freeze

Sat Mar 5, 2011 3:47pm GMT

By Michael Shields

VIENNA (Reuters) - A top Libyan official accused Austria on Saturday of betraying its liberal traditions by freezing his assets as part of a hunt for offshore wealth held by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle.

Austria on Friday added Mustafa Zarti, deputy head of the Libya Investment Authority (LIA) sovereign wealth fund, to its blacklist of suspected Gaddafi cronies, calling him a "close confidant of the regime in Libya".

Zarti, who has an Austrian passport and lived for years in Vienna as a youth, hit back in an interview with Reuters, denying any links to the clan other than Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, whom Zarti called a long-time friend.

"I wasn't expecting (the asset freeze order) from Austria as a liberal country. I was very surprised about that decision but I am very happy I am in Austria and there is a legal system where I will take my rights," he said by telephone.

He called the freeze an embarrassment for his family.

"That's the problem. I'm not even (by) myself. I have a kid. I have a wife," he said, upset that he had been portrayed in such a negative light by media.

Zarti, 40, distanced himself from accounts portraying him as a shrewd money manager who came to Austria from Libya last month to spirit away billions in clandestine Gaddafi clan wealth.

"That has no reality. It is really a joke," he said.   Continued...

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