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Did Gaddafi plan to introduce an African currency backed by gold reserves? Maybe, but there’s little evidence for this

IN SHORT: Over the years we’ve frequently seen the claim that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had plans to introduce an international currency. But as with so many details of Gaddafi’s life, assassinated in 2011, this rumour too is impossible to confirm.

Claims published on social media platforms say former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed while planning to introduce an international currency backed by large gold reserves. 

(Note: Gaddafi’s surname is sometimes transliterated as Qaddafi or other variations.) 

Some of the posts have implied or claimed outright that Gaddafi was killed because this new currency would threaten the economic interests of other nations.

Africa Check was also forwarded the same message via WhatsApp

Gaddafi was killed by rebels during the 2011 Libyan civil war. 

So, where do rumours of the former leader’s economic plans come from, and how reliable are they?


Claims attributed to friend of former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, but actual source unknown

Africa Check has seen this claim several times. It’s difficult to fact-check because the original source of the claim is not publicly available.

The claim is typically attributed to a comment in an April 2011 email to Hillary Clinton, then US secretary of state. In 2015, the email was leaked to the public, along with a cache of Clinton’s other emails, after a private email server was hacked.

This email, like many of the other hacked emails, was from Sidney Blumenthal, who was at the time an employee of the non-profit Clinton Foundation

Blumenthal is a longtime friend of wife-and-husband Hillary and Bill Clinton, a White House employee and an advisor to Bill Clinton, while he was US president.

Reportedly, Hillary Clinton wanted to hire Blumenthal as a state department aide while she was secretary of state, but his hiring was vetoed by then-president Barack Obama. 

Despite not being hired, leaked emails revealed that Blumenthal sent Clinton regular memos in the style of intelligence reports. These included at least 25 memos about Libya. 

In one email, Blumenthal wrote that “Qaddafi's government holds 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver”, a claim attributed to “sources with access to advisors to Saif al-Islam Qaddafi”, one of the leader’s sons.

Blumenthal went on to say: “This gold was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar. This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French franc (CFA).” 

He also said that “French intelligence officers discovered this plan shortly after the current rebellion began”, and that this “influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy's decision to commit France to the attack on Libya”.

This seems to support the claim we are checking, including the suggestion that this plan was considered a threat to other countries’ interests. The memo contained some minor errors. For example, there is no “Libyan golden Dinar”, although this may have referred to the historical Islamic coins which have inspired modern, though not widely used, gold currencies.

However, even the parts of Blumenthal’s claim that aren’t obviously incorrect lack any reliable evidence to back them up.

Blumenthal’s claims on Libya poorly sourced and considered untrustworthy by US officials

Blumenthal did not reveal the source of any of his claims to Clinton, but it is likely that he wasn’t actually the person compiling the memos he sent her.

When several of Blumenthal’s private emails were published by a hacker in 2013, news site Gawker wrote that the memos were likely written by a man named Tyler Drumheller. Drumheller was a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer who worked as a private consultant.

After Clinton’s emails leaked in 2015, anonymous sources told news organisations that Drumheller had provided the information on Libya.

And while Drumheller and Blumenthal didn’t reveal their sources, there is evidence that US officials did not trust the information they provided to Clinton. Clinton shared several of the memos with an aide who expressed doubts about their accuracy, even writing that one memo “seems like a thin conspiracy theory”.

A 2016 Vanity Fair article on Blumenthal summed up his Libya memos as “intelligence of dubious reliability and provenance, and possibly tainted by the commercial ambitions of American businessmen”. 

The New York Times wrote in 2015 that “much of the Libya intelligence that Mr Blumenthal passed on to Mrs Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates” who saw the Libyan civil war as an opportunity to pursue business interests in the country. This appears to include Drumheller, described as a “former CIA spy”.

It is possible that the information is correct. Blumenthal’s sources may actually have had indirect access to Gaddafi, and the rumours they passed on may have been correct. However, the claims are still unconfirmed, and there are substantial reasons to doubt their accuracy.

There are no other sources to support claims that Gaddafi intended to introduce a gold-backed international currency. And there is no evidence that Blumenthal and Drumheller actually had access to sources with direct knowledge of Gaddafi’s actions or intentions. 

The anonymous sources quoted in Blumenthal’s memos could themselves be passing on unsubstantiated rumours, or have financial interests in the region which may have biassed their thinking.

Blumenthal and Drumheller’s information seems to have been considered largely untrustworthy by US officials.

This claim is unproven, and there is no trustworthy evidence to suggest that it is true.

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