Britain’s highest-value passport was awarded to an affluent businessman in Beirut last week
The world’s most powerful passport was awarded to an affluent businessman in Beirut last week as the BBC report “The Real Power Passport”.
The passport is a piece of Libyan memorabilia worth $100,000 and contains a pink portrait of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The owner is Sadegh Al-Ghanem, a retired Swiss bank executive who has interests in arms, banking and real estate.
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Until recently Al-Ghanem owned a global franchise of luxury watchmakers, Rolex. His family background was once a secret, with his grandfather running a Libyan spy agency in the 1940s, but he travelled around the world and became an unofficial politician during the reign of Gaddafi.
When it came to play time, he is said to have supported Libyan interests, including a nuclear programme that incurred widespread condemnation from western powers.
Later, when Gaddafi fell in 2011, Al-Ghanem defended the country’s fight against its neighbours, saying: “Do you think we didn’t make a mistake? Do you think we didn’t wage war against US, Nato, Saudi, Qatar? We did!”
In 2016, Libya declared war on one of Al-Ghanem’s companies, after it attempted to repatriate billions of dollars to the country. Tripoli’s government has also declared war on his passport, accusing him of “erasing” the country’s heritage.
The specific and even believable details of Al-Ghanem’s wealth never come to light, but there are interesting parallels with other countries that recently passed high-value passports.
The Dominican Republic passed a passport worth $60,000 that can be flown to the US, given its importance as a Hispanic hub. Although the Dominican is one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, its press has described it as the “new Dubai”.
At the top of the Forbes global rich list is another passport. Sir James Dyson’s, worth $3.4bn, can be flown to any five-star hotel in the world. It is not particularly rare for one of Dyson’s detectors to be flown to a certain location – some have even been flown to Mars.
When it comes to the influence of political elite, the passport knows no bounds. When the UK’s new passports were designed, one feature was that holders could travel across the world without having to renew their licence. From the next Brexit day, this means that anyone with the right special passport can see the planet at will – a huge shortcoming of current UK passports.
Earlier this year, Lord Janner was stripped of his UK passport over child sex offences, but he has dual citizenship. It also seems odd for someone to own an exceptional passport and lead a controversial legal case, yet he still uses it. His parliamentary masters have been considering whether to strip him of a Spanish passport after he was forced to admit funding the Barcelona club Seville FC during his days as a judge, but this option could have legal implications.