In 2009, the Gadhafi regime called in 15 energy company executives and issued an ultimatum: Either they’d help pay Libya’s $1.5 billion bill for its role in the Lockerbie bombing, or their oil leases would face “serious consequences.” Some of the companies—including several based in the US—paid up, the New York Times reports. It was more or less business as usual in Libya. Ever since the West lifted economic sanctions, the regime has amassed tens of billions of dollars by shaking down foreign companies.
“Libya is a kleptocracy in which the regime … has a direct stake in anything worth buying, selling, or owning,” said a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks. But the US has only itself to blame. It reopened business dealings with Gadhafi in 2004, and following the 2008 Lockerbie settlement, served as a self-described “matchmaker” between the regime and American businesses. “It was a deal with the devil,” a Bush-era Treasury official says. “I don’t think this is the way anyone would have wanted it to work out.”