London office of Libya investment fund deserted

LONDON Wed Mar 9, 2011 8:38am EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - The agency that handles Libya's multi-billion-dollar oil revenues appears to have deserted its plush London offices, where a pre-Gaddafi national flag hangs from a balcony and a banner demands an end to the "blood bath."

Two visits this week to the cream-white building, just yards away from the U.S. embassy and a short walk from Hyde Park in the exclusive Mayfair district, yielded no official response from the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA).

A middle-aged English woman who answered the door on one visit on Wednesday said she was a cleaner and that the 'Dalia Advisory offices' were empty. She had no idea, she said, when anyone from the company would return.

The European Union agreed on Tuesday to add the sovereign fund to its sanctions list, as part of punitive measures against Muammar Gaddafi's government which is battling against armed Libyan opposition groups who want him to step down.

The LIA, set up in 2006 to manage Libya's oil revenues, has assets of around $70 billion.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Dalia operates as a "front company" for the LIA, which owns stakes in a clutch of European bluechips ranging from Italian bank UniCredit to British publisher Pearson.

LIA chief Mohamed Layas said in January the fund's primary investments were in London, in banking and residential and commercial real estate, according to a confidential diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks.

Layas also said the LIA preferred operating in London rather than in the United States due to the ease of conducting business and a relatively uncomplicated tax system.

(Reporting by Matt Falloon and Natsuko Waki)

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