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Exclusive: Family of Khalifa Haftar liquidates US properties amid lawsuit

The Libyan commander's family properties are in focus after a US judge ruled he was liable for war crimes
Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar salutes during a military parade in the eastern city of Benghazi on 7 May 2018 (AFP)

The family of Libya's Khalifa Haftar has been quietly liquidating their portfolio of US real estate, selling a multimillion-dollar Virginia home, along with a townhouse and other six-figure properties as legal troubles mount for the eastern commander, Middle East Eye can reveal.

On 21 March, Okba Haftar, the US-based son of the Libyan military leader, sold a five-bedroom, six-bathroom, 7,300 sq ft home in Great Falls Virginia for $2.55m, according to public records reviewed by MEE.

The sale came less than two weeks after a US judge ordered that a lawsuit accusing the Libyan commander of war crimes move forward, after a pause in legal proceedings that had lasted several months.

Since then, Khalifa Haftar's legal prospects have worsened. On 29 July, a federal judge issued a default judgement against Haftar, finding him liable for war crimes. The court is now evaluating a compensation package for the plaintiffs.

The victims and their lawyers are targeting the Haftar family’s real estate.

"We will now be moving towards the damage phase," said Mark Zaid, a lawyer representing one group of the plaintiffs. "And we'll execute upon properties wherever we can find them anywhere in the world."

The Haftar's maintain a vast portfolio of international properties, with at least one mansion in an upmarket suburb of Amman, Jordan, along with real estate in the UAE, according to an associate of the family. Yet the US holdings have come under the closest scrutiny.

Khalifa Haftar US Property
Haftar's son, Okba, sold the Great Falls Virginia mansion, described as "contemporary and sleek", days after a US Judge ruled his father could be sued for war crimes (Redfin)

Khalifa Haftar is being sued under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991. The law allows family members of the victims of extrajudicial killings and torture perpetrated by individuals acting in an official government capacity to sue the people responsible.

In previous cases, it has been hard for victims to claim damages. Foreign leaders accused of human rights violations and corruption often structure their assets behind layers of shell companies to mask their wealth. It is also difficult for US courts to seize foreign assets.

Haftar's US citizenship and property holdings make his case somewhat unique.

According to court documents, the Haftar family has held at least 17 properties in the Virginia area alone. The properties were first reported in a Wall Street Journal article which cited an asset-tracing document assembled by private consultants provided by the Libyan government. 

MEE can reveal that nine of the Virginia area properties have been sold, including the house in Great Falls Virginia, according to public real estate records.

Six properties, including two suburban homes in Bristow Virginia, fetching $680,000 and $715,000, were sold between 2019 and 2020. In October 2020, a four-bedroom townhouse in Ashburn, Virginia, was sold for $702,000. Another property in Bristow, Virginia, a four-bedroom 3,600 sq ft colonial style house, was sold last November for $620,000.

According to court documents, Khalifa Haftar personally owns just two US properties - a condo in suburban Falls Church, Virginia, and a three-bedroom ranch in rural Virginia. The other Virginia properties are held in a limited liability company controlled by his son Okba Haftar.

Khalifa Haftar US Property
The home in Bristow, Virginia, sold in November 2021 by Abko Investments, a limited liability company controlled by Okba Haftar, boasts granite countertops, crown mouldings, and oak cabinets (Zillow)

Khalifa Haftar’s affairs are a family business. At least two of his sons, Saddam and Khalid, serve as officers in their father's self-styled Libyan National Army. Saddam has been a chief emissary for his father on trips to the UAE and Israel, a source with direct knowledge of the matter tells MEE.

Another son, Belqasim, is a top political advisor to the elder Haftar.

Okba Haftar has not been named in any of his father's cases. Two of Haftar's Libyan-based sons were named as defendants in one of the lawsuits against their father but a US judge dismissed them from the case.

The 17 properties in the Virginia area were initially held across three companies: Eastfield Holdings, Alexamton Investments, and Eastern Brothers Group.

Over the last two years, the properties have been consolidated under a new limited liability company, Abko investments, controlled by Okba Haftar, according to public records and documents viewed by MEE.

Together, the eight remaining properties are assessed to hold a value of around $4.014m, roughly half the $8m estimated in the initial court documents which referenced the 17 holdings.

Making an exit?

Khalifa Haftar is a one-time CIA asset who commanded military opposition to the government of Muammar Gaddafi. He moved to the US from Chad in 1991. Following Gaddafi’s ousting, he returned to Libya in 2011 and served in the internationally recognised government until 2014, when civil war broke out in the country.

In 2019, he led a failed assault on Libya's internationally recognised and UN-backed government in Tripoli, but was pushed back following Turkish military assistance.

Between 2019 and 2020, three lawsuits were filed accusing Khalifa Haftar of being guilty of the shelling of civilians as well as the torture and execution of prisoners.

Haftar has been supported to varying degrees by foreign powers, including Egypt, the UAE, France, and Russia. Some have seen him as bulwark against Islamic militants and a figure who could bring stability to Libya after a decade of turmoil following Gaddafi's removal. 

US court finds Libya's Khalifa Haftar liable for war crimes
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In April 2019, Haftar held a phone call with former US President Donald Trump, stoking rumours that Washington was throwing its weight behind the general.

However, relations between the Trump administration and Haftar soured soon after the call.

Haftar's forces had captured an American citizen operating as a pilot for the internationally recognised government of Libya. Haftar prevented the pilot, Jamie Sponaugle, a US Air Force veteran, from speaking with the State Department while in captivity and stonewalled his release, multiple sources familiar with the matter told MEE.

Sponaugle was released six weeks later after the intervention of Saudi Arabia on the US’s behalf, sources say. 

Today, the 78-year-old commander has few allies left in Washington. The war in Ukraine has placed renewed scrutiny on his relationship with Moscow. Haftar's forces have been buttressed by Russian Wagner mercenaries, along with Chadian and Sudanese fighters. 

According to a source with knowledge of the Haftar clan, Okba Haftar has received an offer from the UAE to relocate to the Emirates, amid his father's flagging US support.

The UAE embassy did not respond to requests for comment. MEE contacted Okba Haftar by phone and email for a response to this article but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.