The guessing game about the size of Muammar Gaddafi’s fortune has begun. A parade of Middle-East experts interviewed by the UK’s Guardian has put the figure at “several billion dollars” and surmised it might be in Dubai or SE Asia. But whether it’s two or two hundred, no one has a clue.

There’s an eight-bedroom house in Hampstead, North London, with swimming pool and suede-lined cinema, which was bought by Gaddafi’s son Saif for £10 million in 2009.

There’s also valuable commercial property in London, a 3% share in Pearson Group (owner of the Financial Times) and a 7.5% share in the famous Juventus football club in Turin. But all of these are owned by the Libyan government rather than Gaddafi himself.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, the search for Hosni Mubarak’s loot has supposedly uncovered 19 tonnes of platinum deposited in the Union Bank of Switzerland in 1982. Except that no one’s sure whether the scanned bank deposit form — revealed by an Egyptian rights centre — is genuine. And no one has yet seen the metal, which was then worth US$15 billion and would not fetch more than US$100 billion. But watch out for armored trucks pulling up outside the UBS in Basel.

Watch out too for last-minute cash withdrawals. Egypt’s foreign ministry has finally requested its Arab neighbours, the European Union and other Western countries to freeze all assets belonging to the Mubarak family. But they’ll be lucky to find anything. Anything in cash was almost certainly moved weeks ago.

Meanwhile, a couple of Gulf States appear to ready to offer the deposed dictator asylum, with the Sultan of Oman promising a palace for him and his family

Although Mubarak has vowed to die in Egypt, there must now be a good chance of the new government coming after him: 43 of his family members, ministers and officials have been banned from leaving the country and have had their assets frozen.

An easy way for him to save face might be to seek medical treatment abroad, then not return. There have been several reports that the 83-year-old deposed dictator is seriously ill and in a coma. But it could just be the well-worn Skase/Bond/Pinochet defence.

Meanwhile, for the latest price on Gaddafi surviving till the end of 2011, take a look at Intrade, which reckons he’s an 84% chance for the chop,  up from 20% only 4 days ago. Second favourite to be out by year’s end is Bahrain’s Prime Minister Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, who is rated a 62% chance for the chop, and third place goes to Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

We’re sad to report that Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is only reckoned to have a one in five chance of being ousted.

Peter Fray

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