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Austria freezes Kadhafi associate s assets

VIENNA, March 4, 2011 – Austria\’s central bank (OeNB) on Friday froze the assets of one of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi\’s close associates, who left Tripoli late last month to seek refuge in Vienna.

Under the bank\’s freeze order, which was published in the official journal Friday and comes into effect immediately, Mustafa Zarti will no longer have access to any of his funds in Austria.

The foreign ministry in Vienna had asked the OeNB on Wednesday to look into a freeze for Zarti, noting that he "has assets and might make them available to other representatives of the Libyan regime."

Zarti, who holds an Austrian passport, left Tripoli to take refuge in Vienna on February 21.

News reports said he looked after Kadhafi\’s assets in Austria, which according to the daily Die Presse were worth nearly 30 billion dollars (22 billion euros) and were mostly hidden away in foundations.

Zarti was grilled by Austrian anti-terrorism police on Thursday but later released, Interior Minister Maria Fekter said.

A close friend of Kadhafi\’s son Saif al-Islam — who once studied in Vienna and owns a luxurious villa in the Austrian capital — Zarti is the vice-chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority. He is also a board member of Libya\’s National Oil Corporation, head of oil giant Tamoil and deputy chairman of Bahrain\’s First Energy Bank, according to the OeNB.

The Austrian central bank had indicated on Tuesday after a first check following sanctions decided by the European Union against Kadhafi and 25 people close to him that Libyan assets identified in Austrian bank accounts amounted to 1.2 billion euros, without saying exactly who they belonged to.

Zarti did not figure among the individuals slapped with EU sanctions.

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