TRIPOLI, Libya — The 42-year, iron-fisted rule of Muammar Gaddafi caused immense suffering for the people of Libya, though it allowed him and his family to enjoy lives of unimaginable luxury.
During Gaddafi’s Libyan rule, his subjects lived in abject poverty despite having access to a bountiful supply of oil. Meanwhile, Gaddafi and his family traipsed around the world like royalty.
But by the end of the Libyan Revolution of 2011, the tables had turned. Gaddafi was captured and brutally killed on the streets in his hometown of Sirt, while the family members who were lucky enough to escape the coup were forced into exile.
Three of Gaddafi’s sons—Mutassim, Saif al-Arab and Khamis—were not so lucky and died in the 2011 uprising.
Mutassim Gaddafi—who served as his father’s national security advisor—was captured and executed during the insurrection. Though he was engaged in politics more than his brothers—even to the extent of attempting a revolt against his father at a young age—he still found plenty of time to indulge his hedonistic tendencies.
His death may have been violent and bloody, but his life was one long extravagant party.
He reportedly spent an average of $2.2 million a month on parties. Though that number may be little more than a boast, he must have doled out at least a small fortune to pay the likes of Beyoncé and Mariah Carey to perform at his beachside bashes.
Two of Gaddafi’s more prominent sons—Saadi and Saif al-Islam—currently face trials in the Libyan judiciary system.
As Gaddafi’s favored son, Saif was once widely considered the heir-apparent to his father’s regime. Even more so than Mutassim, Saif was a key player in Gaddafi’s inner political circle. He was a central figure in a host of important international negotiations.
As a graduate from the prestigious London School of Economics, Saif was particularly well equipped to continue his father’s legacy. However, at times Saif appeared uninterested in following in his father’s footsteps.
He was often critical of Gaddafi’s authoritarian rule, and there was hope that Saif would be a reformer once in power. He is quoted to have said that the one thing Libya needs most is “democracy.”
When asked to clarify if he meant “more democracy” under Gaddafi’s Libyan rule, he responded saying that “‘more democracy’ would imply that we had some.”
Saif was captured a month after his father died, thus dashing any hopes for his promised reforms. His capture immediately sparked a dispute between the International Criminal Court and the Libyan Courts.
The conflict arose since he was wanted both internationally, charged with crimes against humanity, and locally in Libya for his role in violently repressing the Libyan Revolution.
The conflict has yet to be resolved, but Saif was transferred to a custom detention facility in Libya anyway. Reports say the cushy facility includes a basketball court and a personal chef.
Despite protests by the International Criminal Court, initial hearings in the case have already begun.
Likewise, Saadi is also facing trial in Libya. He is currently detained by Libya’s Judicial Police after being extradited from Niger, where he had been in hiding since he fled Libya in 2011.
Unlike his brother Saif, Saadi was always more interested in using his father’s money to live out his playboy fantasy.
Whether it was in his $1.6 million Toronto penthouse or his mansion in Mexico or one of his family’s many coastal villas, Saadi loved to host lavish parties. American celebrities like 50 Cent have reportedly been feature guests at his parties, which have cost him up to two million dollars per party.
Outside of his unbelievably extravagant lifestyle, Saadi also pursued a football career in Italy. Saadi quickly learned that money couldn’t buy him skill in football, so he reverted to heading the Libyan Football Federation.
On the business side of things, Saadi acted as little more than a middle man for his father’s oil business. Saadi allegedly was at the center of numerous corrupt dealings and bribes, which is what he currently faces trial for.
The remainder of Gaddafi’s family—his wife Safia, his sons Muhammad and Hannibal and his daughter Aisha—has been on the run since the 2011 revolution.
They sought refuge in Algeria, but were forced to flee again after the Algerian government abandoned them. After that, they secretly won political asylum in Oman, where they are assumed to reside today. Reports claim that the family is still living in a luxurious compound there, with all expenses paid for by the Omani government in return for their silence.
Muhammad is not believed to have been a major player in his father’s regime. On the other hand, his siblings Hannibal and Aisha are both wanted on Interpol arrest warrants.
Hannibal is notorious for abusing his servants. He was allegedly involved in a myriad of altercations, ranging from attacking Swiss hotel staff and to beating up his wife, to burning his servants alive.
The transgressions of Hannibal’s sister, Aisha, were not quite so violent, though were perhaps equally reprehensible. Trained as a lawyer, Aisha is infamous for defending dictators like her father. Most notably, Aisha appeared in the defense of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
As for Gaddafi’s wife Safia, they never appeared particularly close despite being married for nearly 40 years. Gaddafi’s first marriage lasted a mere six months, and he had plenty of bizarre extramarital relationships.
Gaddafi employed an army of all-female bodyguards who were required to be virgins. He also had a strange fascination with Ukrainian nurses, and always had to travel with at least one. He claimed those relationships were strictly professional, though accounts differ.
As lavishly as his family lived, they paled in comparison to Gaddafi himself.
Reports estimate that he may have been the richest person in the world with a net worth of over $200 billion. If that were true, he would have eclipsed the next closed billionaire by about $75 billion. Most of that money remains unaccounted for, tied up in overseas banks and government assets.
Gaddafi bankrolled his family’s decadent lifestyle while his people lived in crippling poverty for decades. To this day, one in three Libyans live beneath the poverty line.
But Libya contains one of the largest oil reserves in the world, and there is hope that with democratic rule, the profits of that oil will be shared more equally. While Gaddafi was in power, he greedily reserved that fortune for just his family and his closest friends.
– Sam Hillestad
Sources: National Post, BBC, Washington Post, The Borgen Project, Daily Mail 1, CNN, Daily Mail 2, The Daily Beast, Gawker, NY Mag