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How Goldman Sachs Lost $1.2 Billion of Libya’s Money

  • The LIA also had dueling executive teams-one based in Malta and one in Tripoli-and both factions hired their own legal and PR outfits.
  • On July 23, 2008, Goldman’s phenom was sitting on the 22nd floor of the Al-Fateh Tower, thinking about his $9 million paycheck and wondering why Zarti was keeping him waiting so long.
  • The same year that Qaddafi established the LIA, Goldman posted the largest profit in Wall Street history.
  • As Kabbaj was called into a boardroom next to Zarti’s office, he recognized three bankers from the French bank Société Générale-Goldman’s main rival for the LIA’s cash.
  • Goldman may have made hundreds of millions off Libya, but it’s put banking dogma at risk.

When Wall Street’s most aggressive bank took on the world’s most incendiary client, someone was going to make a killing.

@Barushka36: @74f5c728e7d446d Her pals @ #GoldmanSachs owes #Libya 1.2 Billion in stolen funds..I hate this woman

Moammar Qaddafi’s Libya was a miserable place for a business trip.

In 2008, a few years after renouncing its nuclear and chemical weapons program, the desert nation remained a menacing and ugly place, with cratered highways, awful restaurants with no booze, and Qaddafi’s leathery visage everywhere, staring balefully down from billboards. The dreary capital, Tripoli, sat at the edge of the Sahara, in the least barren sliver of a country defined in the West by dictatorship, terrorism, and billions of dollars’ worth of oil.

Goldman Sachs’s Youssef Kabbaj was one of the few that enjoyed the commute. A securities salesman based out of the bank’s London headquarters, Kabbaj found that Libya reminded him of his native Morocco, and he considered the ruins in Tripoli’s old quarter enchanting. The city had a single decent hotel, the Corinthia, a crescent hulk the color of sand, and that year Kabbaj was such a frequent guest that he stored a rack of pressed suits there at all times. With slick black hair, round cheeks, and a mischievous smile, he was fluent in English, French, Arabic, and the language of international finance.

Qaddafi’s peaceful turn had reopened Libya to Western banking for the first time in two decades. Its $60 billion in oil wealth, no longer dammed up by international sanctions, was ready to flood into the market, as directed by the Libyan Investment Authority, Qaddafi’s brand-new sovereign wealth fund. With his North African pedigree, Kabbaj had been one of the first at Goldman to spot the opportunity. The LIA had become his biggest client, transforming him in a year from rookie salesman into possibly the No. 1 rainmaker at the world’s most profitable investment bank. He was 31 years old.

How Goldman Sachs Lost $1.2 Billion of Libya’s Money