DJ UPDATE: Libyan Activist Calls To Unfreeze $400M In Tamoil Payments
LONDON (Dow Jones)--A key Libyan opposition activist this week called on the international community to unfreeze close to $400 million in oil payments made by Libyan refiner Tamoil SA and to use the cash for humanitarian purposes
The call is the latest by the opposition to Col. Moammar Gadhafi to try accessing some of Libya's frozen money on the back of a recognition by the U.S. and over 30 other nations last month.
Tamoil, one of Europe's largest oil refiners, is controlled by Libyan entities under sanctions. As part of a balancing act between hitting Gadhafi and preserving the interest of European consumers, Tamoil isn't itself on a list of designated entities and continues to operate on the continent.
But Ashur Shamis, a London-based Libya opposition activist, told Dow Jones that close to $400 million of payments for oil-crude purchases made by Tamoil to Libya's National Oil Corp., have been deposited in escrow accounts held at banks such as BNP Paribas SA (BNP.FR). Tamoil received the crude before Libya interrupted exports five months ago. But it has been unable to send the money to NOC in Tripoli because the latter is under sanctions.
But Shamis said Libyans in territories controlled by the opposition to Gadhafi "should benefit from" the oil sales.
He said the money should be spent under international supervision for food, medication and fuel, especially in Western Libya.
"The objective is to get the money for humanitarian purposes in liberated areas. We are not concerned with weapons," the activist said.
"All these goods [like fuel] that are available in Europe, we would like to get them" too, he said.
According to another person familiar with the matter, existing credit lines to Tamoil with banks like UBS AG (UBSN.VX) have also been maintained, despite being initially guaranteed by NOC.
But the group's reliance on credit lines to buy on the spot market as opposed to NOC supply is hindering its throughput. The person familiar with the matter said its refining utilization now stands at between 60% -- when oil prices are high -- to 90% -- when they are lower. Asked about the call to unfreeze the escrow oil accounts, a spokesman for the United Nations mission of Portugal -- the country chairing the Libyan sanctions committee -- said the latter "has not received any communication" on the matter.
Tamoil didn't respond to a request for comment. BNP Paribas and UBS declined to comment.