Libya's Zarti files suit over Austrian asset freeze

VIENNA Wed Mar 9, 2011 11:34am EST

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VIENNA (Reuters) - A former official at Libya's sovereign wealth fund has asked Austria's top court to release his assets that Vienna froze in a hunt for offshore wealth of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle.

Attorneys for Mustafa Zarti, 40, filed an appeal on Wednesday with Austria's Constitutional Court against the March 4 asset freeze order from the central bank, a spokesman for Zarti said, confirming a report by the Austria Press Agency.

The legal action seeks the immediate release of his assets because the order was based on false media reports, the spokesman said.

Austria last week added Zarti, former 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 has told Reuters he resigned on February 24 from the LIA, three days after coming to Austria to spend a holiday break with his family.

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

The European Union agreed on Tuesday to add the LIA and several other financial organisations to its sanctions list.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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