Pan Am Flight 103 Reparations Paid By Oil Companies, Not Libya

The New York Times is reporting that the reparations that Libya paid as part of the settlement of the claims against it for the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 were actually paid by BP and other oil companies:

WASHINGTON — In 2009, top aides to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi called together 15 executives from global energy companies operating in Libya’s oil fields and issued an extraordinary demand: Shell out the money for his country’s $1.5 billion bill for its role in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist attacks.

If the companies did not comply, the Libyan officials warned, there would be “serious consequences” for their oil leases, according to a State Department summary of the meeting.

Many of those businesses balked, saying that covering Libya’s legal settlement with victims’ families for acts of terrorism was unthinkable. But some companies, including several based in the United States, appeared willing to give in to Libya’s coercion and make what amounted to payoffs to keep doing business, according to industry executives, American officials and State Department documents.

As the article goes on to detail, this was but one example of the extent to which the Libyan Government was used by Gaddafi, his family, and their associates, to line their pockets and build their personal fortunes. The Pan Am connection, though, is just disturbing. We’ve already seen evidence, revealed last year during the oil spill crisis, that BP may have been involved in lobbying the British and Scottish governments to release the only man ever convicted of that terrorist act. Now, it seems like they were helping Gaddafi evade personal responsibility on the other end as well.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Terrorism, World Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    I would say “have they now shame,” if this were actually surprising.

  2. john personna says:


  3. ratufa says:

    Do you (Doug) believe that the oil companies behaved illegally when they paid the money or that they did so irrationally from a cost-benefit point of view? If not, why would you expect the companies to behave any differently? After all:

    A corporation is socially responsible when it maximizes shareholder value within the bounds of the law.


    If President Obama wants businesses to be “responsible,” all he needs to do is to tell them to go out and make the biggest profits they can. That’s why corporations exist.