Connect to share and comment

Is Libya using Italian equipment to strafe protesters?

Arms sales part of close business ties between Italy and the Gaddafi regime.

From 2006 to 2009, Finmeccanica — Italy's biggest defense company, whose majority stake is controlled by the Italian government — sold at least 12 helicopters to Libya, according to Giorgio Beretta of Unimondo, a news website, who collected data of arms sales from disclosure documents submitted to the Italian parliament. Finmeccanica and its subsidiaries also helped refurbish Libya's 250 F260 fighter jets. Finmeccanica is also part of a joint venture that established a helicopter factory in Libya and provided training and support for military personnel.

Just a little over a month ago, on Jan. 17, a Libyan sovereign fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) bought a 2.010 percent stake in Finmeccanica, earning the right to elect up to four board members.

Finmeccanica was just the latest in a string of high profile investments by the Libyan government in Italy: LIA and the Libyan Central Bank control a 7 percent stake in Unicredit, Italy's largest bank, while another sovereign fund, Lafico, owns slightly less than 2 percent of auto manufacturer Fiat, as well as 7.5 percent of the Juventus soccer club.

Libya also supplies more than a quarter of Italy's oil and more than a 10th of Italy's gas. The Italian government has denied that its dependence on Libya for energy will not become a problem. However, a new regime in Tripoli could review the advantageous agreements signed by Eni, the Italian oil giant, with the Gaddafi regime.