Austria freezes Gaddafi family assets

VIENNA Tue Mar 1, 2011 10:22am EST

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria has frozen assets of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's family and other associates subject to European Union sanctions, its central bank said on Tuesday.

The bank said around 1.2 billion euros ($1.66 billion) in Libyan assets were deposited in Austrian institutions.

"What part of this relates to people on the sanctions list still needs to be clarified," it said in a statement, issued a day after the 27-nation EU bloc imposed financial and other sanctions on the Libyan leadership.

Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam studied in Vienna and was a close friend of the late Austrian far-right politician Joerg Haider, accompanying him to the high-profile Opera Ball in 2006.

In Austria, he lived in a luxury villa on the outskirts of Vienna and housed his white pet tiger in the city's zoo, according to Austrian media.

European powers have called on Gaddafi, in power for more than four decades, to stand down after his attempts to suppress two weeks of anti-government protests.

On top of an arms embargo and travel ban, the EU agreed on Monday to freeze the assets of Gaddafi, his family and government.

The Austrian National Bank declined to give a figure for the total amount of Libyan assets in Austria, which could include property and company stakes.

Authorities need to check carefully whether money has been deposited under pseudonyms, Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said. He told the national news agency APA that Austria would seize any property linked to Gaddafi's circle.

Washington has said about $30 billion in assets in the United States had been blocked from access by Gaddafi and his family.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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