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5 October, 2006 - 17:05 By Staff Reporter

Local lawyer helping Libya to modernise banking

A banking expert with law firm Mills & Reeve has returned from Tripoli following the latest in a series of top-level meetings designed to help Libya modernise its banking and commercial law.Ian Benson, a banking and finance lawyer, is among 12 members of a UK-government backed steering committee set up by the Law Society.

The aims of the joint steering committee are to help Libya modernise its economy, make it more attractive to foreign inv-estors and build up the country’s reputation in the international community following years of sanctions.

“We have been looking at commercial and banking law, the way in which disputes are resolved through the courts, and issues such as anti-money laundering and the independence and functioning of the central bank,” said Benson.

“Since the committees were established last November we have met three times in London, twice in Tripoli, and it has been quite extraordinary to see the Libyans’ openness and their desire to establish a more mixed economy.

“Libya is huge in oil revenues, yet the industry does not create that many jobs – probably only around 45,000 – which is why they need to diversify their economy by moving into areas such as tourism.

“If you say compare Libya’s beaches with Tunisia it has vast tourism potential, but the law has to become more western.

“If someone wants to build a hotel you have to make sure you can take out some kind of mortgage on the land.”

Professor Alastair Mullis of the UEA Law School is the Committee’s Rapporteur.

“I believe it says something about the expertise in East Anglia that two organisations from the region are represented in this forum which is having such an influence on the thinking of Libya,” said Benson.

The steering committee has represented on it several senior members of the Libyan Government including the deputy governor of the Bank of Libya, Stuart Willey Chief Counsel at the FSA and a number of lawyers, bankers and academics.

The initial project is due to finish in November when a list of recommendations will be submitted to both governments.

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