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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Muammar Gaddafi: Homes the Dictator Left Behind

With the death of Muammar Gaddafi, a 42-year reign of terror and violence in Libya draws to a close. But for the small army of auditors and bankers tasked with tracking down the colonel's ill-gotten fortune (at least $30 billion in the U.S. alone), the work has only just begun. Perhaps the most concrete reminder of Gaddafi's legacy is his family's impressive real estate holdings.

In the affluent community of Englewood, N.J., Gaddafi purchased a sprawling 25-room mansion in 1982. For years, neighbors have bristled at the thought of living in such close proximity to a mancharged with crimes against humanity.

Gaddafi Englewood home

It also didn't help that neighbors essentially paid for his taxes. Because the home was established as sovereign Libyan territory, whoever lived there did so tax-free. High-profile neighbors to the Libyan strongman included Eddie Murphy, John Travolta, and Lil' Kim.

In 2009, during a visit to the United Nations in New York, he planned to erect a Bedouin-style tent at the Palisades Avenue home just days after giving the recently-released Lockerbie bomber, Adel Basset al-Megrahi, a hero's welcome. After a very vocal backlash, Gaddafi was not be allowed to pitch his elaborate tent.

Across the Atlantic, the Georgian-style London mansion of the colonel's 38-year-old son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, has been at the center of an international protest since March. As the civil war raged on in Libya, a group of Libyan expats and sympathizers determined that the £11million ($17.5 million) townhouse belonged to the dictator's absentee son -- and decided to squat in it. (That's the home pictured at the top of the post, being occupied by protesters in March.)

The protesters, who adopted the name "Topple the Tyrant," laid banners over the roof of the building saying "Out of London, Out of Libya," with an X over Gaddafi's portrait. Inside, the protesters found an indoor swimming pool, state-of-the-art home theater, and widescreen TVs throughout the premises. The home, which was purchased mortgage-free in 2009, drew headlines when Gaddafi's known assets were frozen earlier this year. The tony home represents just a fraction of the Gaddafi family's exorbitant fortune, which is already said to exceed $168 billion.

While it remains unlikely that the Gaddafi fortune will ever be fully accounted for, the dictator and his eight children's real estate holdings reveal just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to restoring Libya's lost billions

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