While Colonel Moammar Gadhafi continues to hang onto power in Libya, the United Nations and the European Union hope to choke him into submission through sanctions. But Gadhafi still has income sources in Germany.
The HEM chain is owned by the Libyan Investment Authority
It's a normal day at the HEM gas station in Bonn's Hausdorffstrasse. Some traffic – no more or less than usual, says a local. Diesel costs 1.44 euros ($2) per liter, petrol 1.52 euros, and Super Plus 1.58 euros - a few cents less than at other gas stations.
The Hamburg Eggert Mineralöle (HEM) chain of gas stations belongs to the Tamoil corporation. Tamoil, in turn, belongs to the Dutch company Oilinvest. And Oilinvest is 100-percent-owned by the Libyan Investment Authority, the state holding company that manages the Libyan government's investment funds, and is therefore under the control of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.
"I need fuel, so I get it here," says one customer at the station.
Elvira Drobinski-Weiss, parliamentary spokeswoman on consumer affairs for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), sees this as a moral failure. She is calling on consumers to take a stand on the situation in Libya by turning away from HEM gas stations.
"We should boycott this company out of solidarity with the Libyan people, who are being murderously attacked by Gadhafi," says Drobinski-Weiss.
Moammar Gadhafi controls government assets abroad
But customers at this particular gas station don't seem too concerned.
"There are people who are supposed to keep everything ordered over there," says one driver.
"Everything is linked to everything else, whether it comes from here or from there," another says. "I can't exactly go in and ask where they get their gas from. I have to get home, and I need petrol, so I am buying it here."
HEM are not eager to talk about the company's connections to the Gadhafi clan. The leaseholder at this gas station simply says: "I'm not giving any information here. That has to go through the Tamoil press office."
Catrin Bedi, spokeswoman for Tamoil, is equally taciturn. "Please understand that we can't comment on political developments," she told Deutsche Welle.
Tamoil runs 395 gas stations in Germany, with a turnover of 1.6 billion euros. In 2009, the company turned a profit of 97 million euros.
Last week, the EU implemented its sanctions against Libya, banning all weapons exports, freezing assets, and imposing a travel ban on 26 leading members of the Gadhafi regime.
At first, the sanctions affected only those individuals named, and not the Libyan state itself. But on Wednesday the EU upped the ante: funds belonging to the Libyan Investment Authority, which owns HEM, were also frozen. But the money has not gone away – it remains unclear whether the Gadhafi regime will one day get its hands on it anyway.
Author: Stefanie Duckstein / bk
Editor: Sam Edmonds