Belfast Telegraph

£17m tax from frozen Libyan assets 'should go to victims of IRA'

Inquiry: Simon Hoare
Inquiry: Simon Hoare
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Victims of IRA bombings have been left "disgusted" after the Government revealed it collects £5m a year in tax from frozen Libyan assets.

The value of the assets held by the UK has risen to £12bn and the Government is under pressure to release it to compensate victims of IRA attacks that used Semtex supplied by former Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

As yet, no UK victims have received compensation from Libya.

Gaddafi's supply of several shipments of semtex explosives to the Provisional IRA in the mid-1980s led to a deadly campaign of bombings.

They included the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bomb in 1987 which killed 12, and the Harrods department store blast of 1983 in which three police officers and three civilians died.

Two shopkeepers were also killed instantly during the London Docklands blast in 1996.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee conducted an inquiry which revealed the Government's multi-million-pound tax receipt from frozen assets.

Committee members had repeatedly challenged the Government to reveal if it collected tax on the billions.

The Government disclosed that £17m of tax has been collected on the assets since the start of the 2016/17 financial year.

The committee has urged the Government to use the money to give financial support to victims until compensation is secured from the Libyan authorities.

Its chairman Simon Hoare said there was a "moral imperative" for the tax receipts to be used to compensate victims.

"The Government claims it has been taking a more 'visibly proactive' approach to securing compensation for victims, but it took my committee to point out that the profits the Government has been accruing from frozen Libyan assets could be put to better use.

"The Government needs to ask itself whether it is content to continue profiting from frozen Libyan assets while victims receive nothing," he added.

Responding, the Government highlighted the difference between attacks allegedly directed by Libya and the regime's "indirect" involvement in the IRA bombings, saying: "Securing compensation for victims of attacks indirectly enabled by the Libyan government is inevitably more complex." The Government said it had a "strong desire to see a just settlement for all victims".

Jonathan Ganesh, president of the Docklands Victims' Association, said the Government has shown a "lack of concern for its own victims of terrorism" who have been "treated like rubbish".

He said: "Victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism from the US, France and Germany received substantial compensation from Libya years ago as their governments fought for their victims.

"The UK victims, many of whom are physically and psychologically injured, were told by their government to fight for themselves.

"The Government has great words of sympathy for victims of terror but in reality they appear not to care."

"Their reluctance to fight for their victims is heartbreaking, which is devastating for all UK victims of terrorism," he added.

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