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Libya sues Goldman over failed deals worth US$1 bil.

LONDON -- Libya's sovereign wealth fund is suing banking giant Goldman Sachs for “deliberately exploiting” its position to make US$350 million profit on US$1 billion worth of failed derivative trades, London's High Court announced Thursday.

The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), which was set up in 2006 to handle the country's oil revenues, accuses the investment bank of gaining the “trust and confidence” of its inexperienced managers, before advising them to enter into “inadequately documented” derivative trades into companies including Citigroup, EdF, Santander and ENI.

The nine deals, totaling US$1 billion, were entered into in early 2008 but turned sour during the financial crisis, according to details made available by the High Court on Thursday.

The trades “lost substantially all of their value” during the crisis and expired worthless during in 2011, the fund alleges.

Despite the losses, the fund claims that the bank still walked away with profits of US$350 million.

A spokeswoman for the bank called the claims “without merit” and said they would “defend them vigorously.”

The fund claims that senior bankers — including Driss Ben-Brahim and Youssef Kabbaj — tried to influence LIA staff with small gifts and a trip to Monaco.

Kabbaj, chief of Goldman's Libyan operations, and Ben-Brahim, the bank's head of trading for emerging markets, “reassured the LIA they were one of Goldman's key strategic clients,” according to the fund's suit, which was filed last week.

“Goldman unconscionably took advantage of the LIA's weakness... and encouraged the LIA to enter into the disputed trades ... in order that Goldman might earn... substantial profit margins,” it continued.

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