Banks Can't Figure Out How To Spell Gadhafi, So They Can't Freeze His Assets

from the well-that's-an-issue dept

The new How to do Everything podcast recently took on the question of just how do you spell the current Libyan leader's name in English? Qadaffi? Khadafi? Gadaffy? It turns out that the "official" answer is Gadhafi, which is used by the AP and NPR -- and part of the reason why is that's how the man himself signed a letter he wrote to a second-grade class back in 1986 in response to their letters to him.

That's great for the press... but it leaves some others in a lurch. Apparently banks and other financial institutions are scrambling to figure out how to freeze assets of Gadhafi and others because they're not sure what names the accounts are really under.
Compounding things, for individuals with Arabic names, sanctions lists provide only a few alternate spellings. The U.S. Treasury Department offers 12 possible spellings for Moammar Gadhafi, though language experts say there are more than 100 for the family name alone.

Unlike other so-called script languages such as Chinese or Japanese, Arabic has no transliteration standards. Pronunciation of the same names varies by place, and written Arabic contains few vowels, opening the door to a larger range of acceptable translations. Mohamed can also be transliterated as Mahmut, Mehmud or dozens of other variants.

Banks allow clients to transliterate their names as they see fit when they open new accounts. When a government publishes a new watch list, the banks' software uses so-called fuzzy logic to search for alternative spellings, similar to how Google suggests alternative phrases when it detects a possible typo in a search.
Of course, all that assumes that they're opening accounts under their own names anyway... I would assume that many have hidden accounts under corporation names or front men or simply fictitious individuals, and you would think that those would be more significant... and much harder to track down.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Ryan (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 1:43pm

    Which is why banks should keep a vial of blood, or better yet next of kin stored away :D

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Steve, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 2:15pm

    Re:

    New form of 2 factor authentication? Password and oldest child?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Sefu binta, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 2:18pm

    A Lie

    How bout a long form birth-certificate. These clowns are lying and they know it. If Ghadafi is hiding money they are helping him hide it and should be put out of business.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    keiichi969 (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 2:28pm

    Re:

    That's a horrible idea. Then the Templars can trace us by our phylacteries!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    lbwmoo (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 2:55pm

    I'm sorry, we don't appear to have your DNA, fingerprint, retinal scan, or colonic map on file.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 3:20pm

    They should do what ICE did. Just get as many Arabic people with the letter G in their name, freeze all of their assets and when people complain, say "but...but...terrorism!"
    Since Ghaddafi is such a bad man, trials aren't necessary, as long as something is done.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Greg G (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 3:34pm

    It's going to be just like it was when everyone (read: mainstream news networks) was stumbling over how to pronounce 'Qatar', only this time with spelling.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Jesse Jenkins, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 6:07pm

    I can't resist . . .

    They can't figure out which spelling to use? It's probably cultural. I remember that before the Iraq war, there were supposedly all these imitation Saddam Hussein's that went around in Iraq so people couldn't assassinate him. What happened to all of them? Where did they go? Hmmm . . .

    In the Khaddafi case, we may just have it wrong. This might actually be a family whose last name is Ddafi, with triplet sons named: Kha, Gha and Qua . . .you never know!
    Keep an open mind :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 6:33pm

    Obligatory Wikipedia article

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muammar_Gaddafi#Name goes into very deep detail, listing all possible alternatives.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    MrBeck (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 3:30am

    Proper Nouns and CJK languages

    A word to the wise. If you want to control what people who do not use the Latin alphabet call your product, do not trust transliteration. Get language appropriate names out for all the markets you want to operate in. Chinese has no useful transliteration, Japanese has two phonetic alphabets (one is Romanji, using the Latin characters, but normally reserved for "foreign" words). Arabic names are spelled differently in different Latin alphabet based languages since the letters in the alphabet are pronounced differently in different languages, not just the vowels, the consonants too. Just ask a Dutchman to pronounce Jans.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 5:34am

    Anything to hide who you really are. My opinion of Muslims is that they are afraid and have to hide. You can cover up your women but a fat woman is still a fat woman. Can't hide it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:09am

    Wait, does this mean the "No Fly List" is even more of a sham than I previously thought, at least it was when it comes to Arabic names?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    known coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 12:29pm

    this is an easy one.

    lets just steal his idenity and charge lots of things to the credit cards we take out in his name,

    1. then the banks will find him no time flat
    2. let him deal with the banks to get his money back. It will take so long he will be out of office before he gets his cash

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 1:33pm

    Re:

    "My opinion of Muslims is that they are afraid and have to hide."

    Afraid of what? Idiots who try to attack them because a handful of people claiming to belong to their group blew things up? Military action against their countries because some other countries didn't like their leaders?

    What does a problem translating between Latin-based languages and non-Latin ones have to do with religion, anyway? How, exactly, does on hide one's identity by having a given name that's difficult to translate? Are you suggesting that Ghadaffi's parents gave him a name that's difficult to translate for this reason?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 1:33pm

    Re:

    "My opinion of Muslims is that they are afraid and have to hide."

    Afraid of what? Idiots who try to attack them because a handful of people claiming to belong to their group blew things up? Military action against their countries because some other countries didn't like their leaders?

    What does a problem translating between Latin-based languages and non-Latin ones have to do with religion, anyway? How, exactly, does on hide one's identity by having a given name that's difficult to translate? Are you suggesting that Ghadaffi's parents gave him a name that's difficult to translate for this reason?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 2:16pm

    Re:

    Yes... Yes it does.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This