– Playboy Saif’s web of connections to the rich and powerful (and that includes Mandy) (Daily Mail, August 24, 2011):
Visitors to the luxurious Tripoli compound of Saif al-Islam were treated until recently to a piece of machismo theatre designed to show their host in the most fearless of lights.
After lobbing pieces of raw meat into a cage for his two snarling Bengal tigers, Freddo and Barney, to fight over, Colonel Gaddafi’s son and heir would have a flunky show his guests inside the house to be served tea.
Minutes later, the bald-headed Saif would appear bloody and bruised after having apparently taken on the fearsome brutes.
Understandably perhaps, few of those who witnessed the spectacle felt inclined to examine the feared Saif’s injuries too closely.
But rumours, only whispered until now, were that the ‘blood’ could be bought in a joke shop and the bruises were nothing more than a bit of hastily-applied eye shadow.
It is a vignette typical of the smoke and mirrors approach that brought the 39-year-old Saif to the very brink of inheriting Libya’s dictatorship from his father.
This, after all, was the warlord who, at the same time as he was overseeing the brutal oppression of his people, was just as much at home donning a Savile Row suit to make polite small talk in impeccable English with the cream of British society and politics, including former prime minister Tony Blair and ex-business secretary Peter Mandelson.
With the imminent downfall of his father, the ruthlessly ambitious Saif will be denied the prize he always coveted – taking over as the oil-rich country’s leader.
His ascent to the top of his country’s political establishment saw him draw into his moneyed web several leading figures in British society – and turn his back on Libya’s Islamic traditions with his constant womanising and partying.
A graduate of the London School of Economics, he was a guest at the homes of Nat and Jacob Rothschild, scions of the banking family. Saif’s 2008 PhD from the LSE has been the subject of claims that much of his thesis was plagiarised.
Meanwhile, the college’s director, Sir Howard Davies, resigned in March following controversy after it emerged the LSE had received a £1.5million donation from Gaddafi.
He also rubbed shoulders with then business secretary Lord Mandelson at a shooting party in Buckinghamshire in 2009.
The playboy also became adept at using his flawless English accent, albeit spoken with a slight stammer, to cultivate the most influential guests at his regular Royal Suite at Claridges hotel or the lavish parties he threw in St Tropez and Monaco.
Prince Andrew, former British trade envoy, developed a relationship with the richest and most powerful of Gaddafi’s nine children.
With such connections, in 2003 Saif was able to negotiate personally with MI6 to assure Britain that his father’s regime would give up its nuclear weapons programme in return for being allowed to do business once again with the West.
Within months, the then prime minister Mr Blair was agreeing the controversial ‘Deal in the Desert’ with Colonel Gaddafi in 2004 to re-open diplomatic links with Britain.
It paved the way for Shell and BP to negotiate multi-million-pound oil deals with the Libyans. It also set in train the shady process by which the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, was released from a Scottish jail two years ago.
Saif, meanwhile, struck up an acquaintance with Oleg Deripaska, the controversial Russian who made a killing by taking control of his country’s aluminium industry in the 1990s.
Deripaska was a guest at a summer party at the Rothschild house on Corfu in 2008 when Mandelson and George Osborne, the then shadow chancellor, were guests. Saif, too, stayed with the Rothschilds on Corfu and also met Mandelson there.
Saif’s relationship with Nat Rothschild and Deripaska is believed to be the motivation behind Libya’s decision to invest $300million in Deripaska’s aluminium business last year.
It goes without saying, perhaps, that should Saif choose one day to reveal the secrets of his connections and business dealings in open court, some of his influential friends could be embarrassed.
With his enemies now closing in, he is believed to have squirrelled away a chunk of the £60billion his family is said to have plundered from Libyan oil assets in banks in Dubai and Asia.
Meanwhile, in January, as civil war in Libya first threatened, the governor of the Libyan Central Bank is said to have travelled to Geneva to change the names on the Gaddafi family’s secret accounts so Saif was added as a signatory and could siphon funds wherever he wanted.
Saif is rumoured to have been negotiating an escape for himself, his father and the rest of the family to Angola, South Africa, Cuba or Venezuela as the noose tightens around them at home.
Increasingly, however, it looks as if the scheming and bloodthirsty Saif can look forward only to the summary justice of his own people.