By George Grant
Tripoli, 24 May:
The British private security company, G4S, has rejected allegations made earlier this month that it will begin . . .[restrict]operating in Libya without authorisation from the Libyan government.
The claims were made in a number of papers in Brussels and Libya, including the Libya Herald, when it was reported that the company had secured a €10 million contract to provide security to the European Union (EU) mission in Tripoli.
It was alleged that both G4S and the EU had decided to begin the contract, which would have put armed foreign nationals on Libyan soil, without the permission of the Libyan government because the legal framework ordinarily required to secure authorisation for such contracts was not in place.
Speaking to the Libya Herald, Richard Northern, a consultant with G4S and the former British ambassador to Libya, confirmed that the company had approached the government to secure authorisation to work in Libya, but had been informed that licenses to foreign security companies were no longer being issued. “We learned that it was no longer possible to get the paperwork companies like ours needed to operate in Libya before last year’s uprising, and that the current transitional government was not issuing security lisences”, Northern said.
However, Northern rejected the suggestion that the absence of a proper legal framework had led G4S and the EU to conclude that it was acceptable to begin operations in Libya without government approval.
“We will not go ahead without government approval”, he said, adding that he understood the government was keen to ensure the private security sector was properly regulated in Libya, “which is understandable”.
Northern also rejected a claim widely repeated in the media that the contract awarded to G4S by the EU was for €10 million. “The contract G4S was awarded in April was for nothing like €10 million”, Northern insisted. “This is a six month contract to provide security for EU staff in Tripoli… I don’t know the exact figures, but I would be surprised if it runs into the millions of euros at all. Even that contract is now in doubt, because the Libyan government may not give their consent to its going ahead”.
Northern suggested that the claims about the size of the contract and suggestions it would begin working in Libya without government approval may have been started by a rival company that lost out on the bid.
He added that the EU contract was in any case “a side project”. “We would like to work with the government in bigger areas where it faces a range of challenges”, he said. “G4S has expertise in areas including the professional and humane management of detention centres, providing security for ports and airports, and safely transferring cash from banks to ATMs”.
“We are in the early stages of discussions with the Libyan government about this, but they have said they’re interested. We would like to employ a number of Libyan nationals, and transfer skills to them so that Libya can take the management of these areas on independently in the future. This is an area in which we believe G4S could make a real difference”, he said.
When asked if G4S had any active operations in Libya at present, Northern confirmed that it did not.