Dubai: The tussle for control of Libya’s $67 billion (Dh245.89 billion) wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), between two executives both claiming to the legitimate chairman, is escalating in a war of words.

AbdulMagid Breish and Hassan Ahmad Bouhadi have been exchanging words through the media and lawyers this year as they both state their case to be the recognised chairman.

“We have unfortunately a rogue … board claiming to be the rightful board but they don’t control anything,” Breish said in an interview in a Dubai hotel on Saturday.

Breish was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive of the LIA in 2013 but latter stepped aside when he was investigated under Libya’s Political Isolation law that prevented associates of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi from holding public office. Breish later successfully appealed against the investigation and it was ruled the law did not apply to him. But in that time Libya’s internationally recognised government in Tobruk, in the country’s east, appointed Bouhadi as the new chair.

Breish argues that he is the rightful chairman because of his successful appeal against the Political Isolation Law and also points that he is based in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, where the LIA head office is. Bouhadi is based in Malta.

But that could change with the United Nation’s proposal last week for a unity government in Libya. The proposal has received support of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Britain and the US and comes ahead of the mandate of the Tobruk-based parliament ending on October 20.

Asked if he would withdraw from claiming to chair the fund if a unity government decided against him, Breish said, “Of course, I have no reservations. Once there is a government of unification, a government that represents everybody that is universally accepted, that’s the law.”

But until then he said he would continue to run the LIA, which has 85 per cent of its international assets frozen by the United Nations.

“I’m responsible for maintaining and preserving the funds and the wealth that pertains not to this government or that government, but to the entire Libyan people. And as along as there are conflicts, and there are differences in opinion and there is not one government I will see to it that all the funds will remain frozen and that until the situation comes to fruition,” he said.

Breish claims his board is in full control of the LIA and that Bouhadi’s “rival board” is simply a “nuisance factor.”

“What it does is unnecessary expense. It causes both of us to spend money to hire lawyers and PRs just to deal with this issue of authority, which is nonsense,” he said.

“We control the accounts. We are the owners of record of all the investments.”

In a July 2015 interview, Bouhadi dismissed Breish as a “mere distraction,” telling Gulf News the LIA was focused on gaining access to its frozen funds. Bouhadi said the LIA wanted to be able to decide where and how its money is invested but said that they wouldn’t be divesting.

But Breish accused Bouhadi on Saturday of wanting to pull money out of the LIA to finance the Tobruk government.

“I don’t think they know what they’re doing … the only motivations they have is they want to put some hands on some money because they belong to the Tobruk government and the Tobruk government needs money,” he said.

But asked if the same argument could be applied to him and the Tripoli-based government, controlled by Islamist groups, Breish argues that he as always publicly stated he does not belong to Tripoli or Tobruk.

“The LIA should remain neutral and independent of these conflicts.”

Breish argues that the LIA’s assets should remain frozen for now and that the LIA should switch to a strategy of outsourcing the management of its assets to major fund managers, albeit when there is a unified Libyan government.