Nobel prize winner resigns from Gaddafi charity

Sir Richard Roberts says £1.5m donation to LSE was made without approval of board members

A Nobel prize-winning British scientist has resigned from the charity run by Muammar Gaddafi's son that gave a £1.5m donation to the London School of Economics, and disclosed that the funding was awarded without the approval of board members.

The elite British university has been in turmoil over the donation, which last week led to the resignation of its director, Sir Howard Davies, and the launch of an independent inquiry into its links with Libya. Sir Richard Roberts, who was on the board of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, said the funding was given to the LSE without "any form of transparency or approval".

The revelation underlines concerns that the Gaddafi foundation did not operate as a normal charity but was a vehicle for the Libyan dictator's son Saif al-Islam.

The LSE council, its governing body, is facing scrutiny over its decision to approve the donation, granted in 2009. One of the LSE's academics stood down from the board of the Gaddafi foundation in 2009 after a council meeting raised concern over a conflict of interests.

Roberts, an internationally renowned biochemist who won the Nobel prize for medicine in 1993, told the Guardian: "I never knew anything about that money before it appeared in the press. That was not done with any sort of clarity or transparency to the board."

Roberts also revealed that the charity had funded the al-Amal aid ship, which attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza last year, without telling the board about the funding.

"It seemed to me that was so overtly political it should not have been done without asking the board if this was a good idea. There were quite a few of us who did not think it was a good idea."

This resulted in a crisis meeting in London in December during which Saif promised to step back from running the charity's finances and allow the board to run them instead.

Roberts said: "It was an issue of transparency. If you are going to sit on a board, you want to know about the assets, how they are being distributed and who is making decisions."

The LSE announced last week that the £300,000 it had received from the Gaddafi charity would be used to set up a scholarship for north African students. It has separately announced an investigation into the running of LSE Global Governance, the research centre that accepted the donation.

David Held, a professor of political science at the LSE and an academic adviser to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi when he studied at the university, was appointed to the board of the Gaddafi foundation on 28 June 2009. The LSE accepted the donation that month.

But Held resigned after members of the LSE council expressed disquiet at a meeting in October.

The charity paid an honorarium to each board member, said by Roberts to be under £10,000 a year as well as expenses.

Roberts joined the charity's board in 2009. He said he had done so because he believed that the Libyan regime wished to move towards a more democratic style of government.

"I think that one of the problems you have to realise is that because of the nature of the political system in Libya, they don't have, or never had the sort of civil society that you or I might find appropriate. It was only when I met Saif [in 2007] when they had no board of directors that he actually asked me if I would consider becoming a member of the board of directors and helping them to put a board together. That eventually resulted in my saying yes."

Other board members included Giulio Andreotti, the former Italian prime minister, and the Rev Chung Hwan Kwak, chairman of the Universal Peace Federation, an offshoot of the Unification Church founded by Sun Myung Moon.

The former Labour foreign secretary David Miliband has expressed anger that the LSE allowed Saif al-Islam to deliver a lecture in his father's name. The Libyan leader's son gave the Ralph Miliband memorial lecture last May.

Miliband told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "It's horrific. The Ralph Miliband programme at the LSE was founded by a former student of my dad's in the 1950s who said he'd learned more in the seminars of my dad – who was obviously on the left – he'd learned more about the right because my dad believed in showing all sides of opinion.

"The idea of Saif Gaddafi giving a lecture under his name is just horrific to him and horrific to the whole family obviously."

A spokeswoman for Labour leader Ed Miliband said the family had not approved the decision. "They were absolutely not consulted on that. No Miliband family member knew about the [Saif] lecture. They wouldn't have been happy and they aren't happy."


Rajeev Syal and Jeevan Vasagar

The GuardianTramp

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