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Halfon's hunt for Gaddafi's cash for British Universities

by Paul Goodman

As David Cameron discusses how to stop Gaddafi's forces, Robert Halfon is trying to track down Libyan money - namely, that which some of our Universities took from his regime.

According to Martin Bright, Halfon has

"made Freedom of Information requests to 100 of the country's top universities asking them to divulge all donations received from the Middle East and North Africa over the past

- and -

"asked the universities to outline whether the donations came directly from governments and whether they were used to create a new department, fund an existing department or establish a fellowship. The Harlow MP has also tabled a series of questions across five government departments and the Prime Minister's Office to establish the lengths to which government ministers and officials went to facilitate business and academic links with the Gaddafi regime".

I've a particular interest in the answers he'll turn up, as I explained on this site recently - having asked the last Government for some of this information when in the Commons.

The MP for Harlow's particularly interested in -

  • John Moores University (JMU), which has Libyan connections via its Business School and Faculty of Health and Applied Social Science.  Bright writes that: "The university has made a robust defence of its actions, saying it was backed by the Foreign Office and the British Council."
  • The £75 million given to the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies by a dozen Muslim countries, and the £16 million donated by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, to similar centres at Cambridge and Edinburgh.
  • The University of Durham, which has a memorandum of understanding with the Iranian government to publish joint books and organise conferences, research and exchange programmes.

Halfon is also interested in the European Muslim Research Centre at his alma mater, Exeter University.  As Bright notes, "its advisory board includes Anas Altikriti, former head of the Muslim Association of Britain, which represents the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, and Basheer Nafi, who was accused by the US in 2003 of being a leading figure in Palestinian Islamic jihad, although he has always denied this."

David Allen Green is tweeting some interesting comments and links about these matters.  I spoke to Halfon earlier this afternoon, and he said:

"Just as I would have opposed them making deals with the South African apartheid regime, I think it's wrong for Universities to sign contracts or deal with the Libyan Government, particularly since Gaddafi murdered British citizens, and instigated terrorism both here and arround the world.

As David Cameron said in the Commons only this week in response to my question, Universities have a lesson to learn from this sorry episode in our academic history."



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