The U.S. Department of State announced on May 30 that $1.1 billion worth of “counterfeit” Libyan currency were seized on May 26 in a joint operation with Malta’s authorities.
In an official statement, a spokesman for the department said that the currency was printed in Russia by the state-owned Joint Stock Company Goznak. The notes were printed upon request from the House of Representatives (HoR) Central Bank in eastern Libya.
The spokesman, Morgan Ortagus, called the bank an “illegitimate parallel entity,” stressing that the Government of National Accord (GNA) bank, the Central Bank of Libya, is the country’s only legitimate central bank.
“The influx of counterfeit, Russian-printed Libyan currency in recent years has exacerbated Libya’s economic challenges,” the spokesman said, adding “This incident once again highlights the need for Russia to cease its malign and destabilizing actions in Libya.”
The HoR’s bank has been printing notes in Russia since 2016. The step was taken in response to a shortage of cash in the eastern part of the country. The GNA, which controls the northwestern part, is currently in conflict with the HoR and the Libyan National Army (LNA).
In the last few months, the GNA’s central bank was accused of misconduct on many occasions. Pro-HoR and LNA sources claim that the bank is selling and transferring hard currency as well as gold to the Central Bank of Turkey in return for the Turkish military support for GNA forces.
The shortage of currency in Libya worsened in the recent days, with the Dinar losing some of its value. Ramzi al-Agha, a director in the HoR’s bank in eastern Libya, claims that the recent influx of Syrian militants to Libya caused the new crisis as the demand for cash skyrocketed.
The U.S. is attempting to blame Russia and the LNA for Libya’s economic problems, which are first of all a result of the 2011 NATO intervention in the country. Washington is worried that Russia may be preparing to provide a direct military support to the HoR and the LNA.
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