x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UK university head quits over Qaddafi cash

Sir Howard, 60, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, also admitted that he had been wrong to travel to Libya to advise the regime on how to modernise its financial institutions.

LONDON // The head of the London School of Economics has resigned for accepting donations from the Qaddafi regime, including one of the dictator's sons.

Sir Howard Davies, who resigned as the world-renowned university's director on Thursday evening, accepted yesterday that he had made "a personal error of judgment" in forging links with the Libyan ruler.

He accepted that the institution's reputation had been damaged by his decision to accept a £1.5 million (Dh10m) donation - only £300,000 of which has actually been handed over - from Muammar Qaddafi's second son, Saif al Islam, in 2009.

Sir Howard, 60, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, also admitted that he had been wrong to travel to Libya to advise the regime on how to modernise its financial institutions.

But he insisted that the LSE's academic independence had not been compromised by its acceptance of the Qaddafi money.

In his first interview since his resignation, he told the BBC yesterday that the LSE's independence "has been a matter of great concern to me during my eight years at the school and I believe we have not sacrificed that independence".

He added: "In each case we have been absolutely scrupulous to ensure that there was no control over the research agenda by the people making the donations. That was true of the Qaddafi donation as well."

Sir Howard said that he had originally offered to resign on Sunday when news broke of the donation from Saif al Islam - who obtained a doctorate from the LSE - but that it had not been accepted by the university's council.

"The reputation of the school is my responsibility and it has been damaged and I think that I need to take the responsibility for that," he said.

Lord (Harry) Woolf, formerly Britain's top judge, is now conducting an investigation into the LSE's links with Libya, particularly its ties to Saif al Islam.

Part of the inquiry will focus on allegations that Saif plagiarised his PhD thesis in 2008, using a ghost writer and copying parts of it from other material.

Saif al Islam made his donation to the LSE the following year through the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation. Sir Howard said that about half of the £300,000 received so far had been spent on research related to North Africa and the development of democracy and civil society there. The rest had been put in a scholarship fund.

Lord Woolf will also look at a £2.2m contract (£1.5m of which has so far been received) between the LSE and Libya's Economic Development Board for the training of Libyan civil servants and professionals.

Sir Howard said he had no qualms about this contract. On the question of accepting money from Saif, he said in his resignation statement: "I advised the [LSE] council that it was reasonable to accept the money and that has turned out to be a mistake.

"There were risks involved in taking funding from sources associated with Libya and they should have been weighed more heavily in the balance."

Sir Howard will stay on as director until a replacement is appointed.

 

dsapsted@thenational.ae