Secrets of a "super-fixer" in Libya

Fri Sep 23, 2011 4:58am EDT
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By Emma Farge and Paul Hoskins

BENGHAZI/LONDON (Reuters) - Flanked by two colleagues, a 60-something Englishman quietly worked the lobby of Benghazi's Tibesti Hotel last week, targeting people likely to be the power brokers in a new Libya.

Approached by a Reuters reporter, the man declined to give his name or even shake hands, describing himself as "a very private person."

Evenings, he was at the bar, smoking cigars and talking to friends -- not in short supply given the number of former British military currently in Benghazi, a rebel stronghold. The men are there, a few of them told Reuters, as fixers or "pathfinders." Their mission is to gather intelligence and build relationships on behalf of UK companies in post-Gaddafi Libya.

His rivals said this man is a "super fixer."

They identified him as John Holmes, a highly decorated former SAS commando and retired British army Major General. This was confirmed by a western diplomat and a member of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) who has held talks with his client, British firm Heritage Oil.

Heritage declined to comment when asked about its activities in Libya and Holmes' presence there. A representative of his own company, Mayfair-based Titon International, said only that he would pass on a message when told Holmes had been spotted in Benghazi. Reuters did not receive any response to that message.

Former members of the highly secretive Special Air Service (SAS), or "The Regiment" as it is also known, have a "frontiersman spirit" that makes them particularly well suited to this sort of work, says one person with detailed knowledge and experience of the inner workings of Britain's special forces.

"They enjoy operating in alien cultures and environments and like to be using their skills to be out ahead of the pack," said the person, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, noting that many are also good linguists.   Continued...