Fri March 4, 2011
The Two-Way

Britain Seizes Libyan Cash — After All, It's Made There

British officials seized $160 million of Libyan currency Friday, and extended a freeze on Libyan financial assets to include more of embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's inner circle.

The U.K. has one key advantage when it comes to seizing Libya's cash: it's printed in the northwest of Britain.

NPR's Philip Reeves filed this report for Newscast:

Officials say they've impounded some containers stashed with Libyan cash unloaded from a ship at the British port of Harwich.

They say the ship had sailed from Britain to the Libyan capital Tripoli, but did not dock there because of security concerns. Instead, it turned around. When it reentered British waters, it was met by a vessel from the border authorities.

In line with U.N. sanctions. Britain has banned the export of Libyan currency — which is printed in Britain. The British government's already blocked a separate shipment of around $1.5 billion dollars' worth of Libyan bank notes.

Speaking to the BBC, U.K. finance minister George Osborne said of Gadhafi, "We're denying him access to bank notes, access to bank accounts, making sure that he is held accountable for what is taking place in Libya, and also denied the means to persecute his own people."

If you're curious, Slate has a rundown of countries that outsource the job of printing their currency. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.