Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi's kids are a hoot: Saif is a painter who keeps pet tigers, while Hannibal enjoys sports cars and turning fire extinguishers into weapons. And, according to sources, they're paying the U.S. a visit on daddy's dime.
Last week there was much moralizing when it was revealed that the son of Equatorial Guinea's dictator was rolling around the US spending his country's oil wealth. But he may not even be the worst case of a dictator's offspring turning America into their personal playground.
People with knowledge of their movements say Saif and Hannibal have been in the U.S. this year. The State Department would not confirm or deny the reports and the Libyan Embassy did not return repeated calls for comment.
They're every bit as ridiculous as Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the heir to power in Equatorial Guinea, and have — if anything — greater freedom to spend their ill-gotten gains in the US. Let's start with Hannibal, pictured on a placard here in a protest against his imprisonment by Swiss authorities (more below):
He enjoys beating women (allegedly) and driving his Porsche the wrong way down the Champs-Elysees in Paris at 90mph. He has pulled a 9mm gun on police in that city and attacked Italian cops with a fire extinguisher. He wriggled out of charges in each instance using diplomatic immunity. Again, the State Department would not confirm or deny that, if Hannibal was here, he was travelling on a diplomatic passport. But it seems unlikely he'd leave it at home after he sparked an international incident in Switzerland in 2008.
His brother Saif, in the main picture, is known as the sophisticated one. He impressed the Council on Foreign Relations on a recent trip to New York, and hangs out with the Rotshchilds, according to this Daily Beast report on his efforts to free the Lockerbie bomber. He's also well-known for keeping two pet tigers. His charm offensive is not winning fans everywhere though - one journalist, who met him when he was promoting his own paintings in Canada, described him as "clearly a little shit" beneath his calm exterior.
Western relations with Libya have warmed in recent years. But it seems that tolerance is as blatant an oil-grab as the collective ignoring of Obiang's Bugatti Veyrons and Rodeo Drive spending sprees. Like Equatorial Guinean dictator Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo, Gaddafi is strongly rumoured to take a cut of each barrel of oil he sells to the West. Like Equatorial Guinea, Libya is rated as not a free country, and receives the lowest possible scores for Political Rights and Civil Liberties from watchdog Freedom House.
Let's just hope that Saadi, another of Gaddafi's eight children, doesn't decide to visit the US. He's a failed soccer player who took steroids, once had a crowd shot at for booing him and tried to make movies with his dad's money.