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Prime minister requests parliamentary investigation into embezzlement accusations

Libya’s Prime Minister Abdallah al-Thinni on Monday sent a letter to Parliament requesting an investigation into allegations of embezzlement that the head of the Libyan air force, Sagr al-Jarushi, has raised against him.

Al-Jarushi supposedly accused al-Thinni and his advisor, Mahmud Abu Bahia al-Obeidi, of embezzling $200 million from a $1.2 billion arms deal made by the internationally recognized government earlier this year.

“These accusations jeopardize national security and send a negative message to the public,” al-Thinni’s wrote in his letter. The prime minister claims al-Jarushi made these remarks on 26 August in the presence of another government official whom he cites as a witness.

A day after, Mahmud Abu Bahia, who is also al-Thinni’s nephew, was kidnapped from his Bayda home by unidentified gunmen. It is not clear whether Abu Bahia’s abduction is linked to the accusations against him, and his whereabouts are still unknown.

Al-Thinni now said he wants the parliamentary defense committee to open an investigation into the affair to clear his name. “In case there is any truth in the accusations, we will fully assume our legal responsibility”, Thinni wrote, adding that in case they were proven wrong he expected the matter to be handed to the prosecutor general.

This was not the first time that tensions between al-Thinni’s government and the army have risen to the surface. In particular al-Jarushi is known for his angry outbursts during interviews. In Libya Channel’s 9pm Debate on April 17, the air force chief spoke of a “black hand” inside the government stopping the transfer of funds to the army and prevent it from obtaining weapons. He claimed that the army leadership had been waiting for four months for a legal arms deal approved by parliament to be finalised. “In front of my people, I accuse the head of the Central Bank, and the prime minister … they are responsible for every person killed and beheaded,” al-Jarushi said on the program.

Libya has been under a United Nations imposed arms embargo – preventing weapons purchases – since the 2011 NATO-backed revolt which toppled former Muammar Gaddafi.

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