In Italy, Eulogies for Qadhafi's Wealth Mismanagement Fund

"Want to bunga-bunga or should we just zenga-zenga?"

An item in the Wall Street Journal reminds us that the ties between Libya and Italy's elites are very, very deep, and, as benefiting the lives of the rich and famous, sometimes produce strange little stories that illustrate much larger forces at work - in this case, the economic future of Libya following the National Transitional Council (NTC) and NATO's military successes: 

ANTRODOCO, Italy - Maurizio Faina, mayor of this small Italian town, has for three years been planning the construction of a lavish spa here thanks to one deep-pocketed financial backer: Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Now that Col. Gadhafi is being ousted from power by his own people, "the whole plan is over, and it's sad," says the mayor, who had hoped to employ hundreds of people thanks to the €16 million ($22 million) resort.

Antrodroco's longing for Col. Gadhafi's largesse is a small, but significant, window into the vast economic ties between Italy and its former colony - a network that generated about $17 billion in annual trade before the conflict broke out.

Significantly, the spa deal began with a personal effort by Colonel Qadhafi (conduced alongside the Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi, who has cultivated close ties with the deposed leader) and was, according to Italian sources, being managed by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), whose multibillion dollar assets were frozen several months ago. These assets include stakes in UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank (who largest foreign owner was, until recently, the Libyan government); Eni, the state energy company that produces the lion’s share (60%) of Libya’s oil exports; and Finmeccanica, a partly government-owned conglomerate with interests in Libya ranging from infrastructure to defense. The regime also had smaller stakes in various Italian sports, automotive, media and telecom interests – and was reported to be eying another, even larger, resort project in the Italian spa town of Fiuggi (so the Colonel would have a choice of resorts, presumably).

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Qadhafi in Rome

h_4_ill_1205047_e8ac_157840.jpg.jpeg Italy -- I love Italy, some of my best friends are Italian as they say -- but really how high of a standard can you set for a country run by a gangster who's actually been re-elected despite the many financial and other scandals around him? (Yes I feel the same way about the US and Bush). Still, rather disappointing to see a major European power honor and play host to Muammar al-Qadhafi, now the longest-serving dictator in the world. As always Qadhafi's amusing attire detracts from his brutal record:
Gheddafi è accompagnato da una folta delegazione, comprese le "amazzoni", la celebre guardia del corpo tutta al femminile con baschi rossi e divise militari. Occhiali neri, cappello e alta uniforme, il colonnello non passa inosservato. In particolare le attenzioni (e le polemiche) si sono concentrate su una foto appuntata sulla divisa: ritrae un eroe della resistenza libica contro gli italiani, Omar Al Muktar, noto come il "leone del deserto". Non solo: l'ultimo discendente di Al Muktar, ormai ottantenne, è sbucato dall'aereo subito dopo il leader libico.
Sure, there are a lot of oil and other contracts for the Italians, and many diplomats and grandees from other countries are lining up for those interminable waits at Qadhafi's presidential palaces, beady eyes darting to and fro under sweaty brows as they feverishly imagine all the money there is to be made from this poor, unlucky country. But luckily not all Italians are happy about the half-mad Libyan dictator's visit, and some have made this nice posted telling Qadhafi his tent (he famously travels with his Bedouin tent) is not welcome in Rome. Gheddafi+no+camping.jpg Get the high-rez version here. By the wonderful artist Gianluca Costantini.
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