Italian soccer club Juventus SC has frozen Libya’s 7.5 per cent stake in the club following the European Union’s sanctions on Libya’s sovereign wealth fund and its subsidiaries.
Italy’s largest bank, Unicredit SpA, owner of AC Roma, has also frozen the stake of its Libyan shareholder on instructions of the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance.
“The club accepts the move from the Ministry of Economics and Finance,” Juventus said in a statement.
The ministry order to freeze the stake in Juventus of the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company (Lafico), a subsidiary of Libya’s $70 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), goes some way to alleviate the club’s embarrassment over its long-standing relationship with Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadaffi and his sons.
Gadaffi and his sons have become international pariahs because of their brutal employment of the Libyan air force and heavy army weaponry to crush mass anti-government protests demanding an end to their 41-year dictatorial rule.
Juventus officials said they legally were prevented from freezing their Libyan stake as long as their shareholder was not included in EU or Italian sanctions. The EU earlier this week expanded its sanctions on Libya to include the LIA and its subsidiaries.
Italy has been slow to impose sanctions because of its extensive oil and commercial ties to Libya. Italy has been a major Libyan investment target with stakes in energy, finance, defense, aerospace and car manufacturing.
Juventus’ embarrassment is compounded by the fact that its association with the Gadaffis contrasts starkly with its insistence that it seeks to reconcile the "professional and business side of football with its ethical and social role."
James M. Dorsey is a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog