Mohamed Lashtar, the Libyan operator of Ortega's “hidden interests”

Gaddafi's nephew has been a frontman, FSLN deputy, Daniel Ortega's private secretary, and now ambassador to the Middle East and Africa

Mohamed Lashtar

13 de marzo 2023


Mohamed Mohamed Farrara Lashtar, 64, nephew of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and member of the inner circle of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, occasionally interrupts his diplomatic routines in countries in the Middle East or Africa and comes out of the shadows to insult opponents in Nicaragua.

On Tuesday, February 14, 2023, the Libyan official, nationalized in Ortega's service, wrote an article in which he mentions a governor of Damascus who refused to sell a “white donkey” to a German emperor in 1898 to avoid allegedly damaging the image of his people. He concluded that “there are people who defend the reputation of their homeland, against those who want to destroy it, these are the patriots. And there are donkeys who sell the fatherland for what it contains... This is the case of the traitors!”

Although he did not make explicit reference to the banishment of 222 political prisoners, Lashtar did repeat the official discourse against the “traitors”, as the regime qualifies the citizens who were stripped of their nationality. He also defended Ortega's position that he was the victim of a “coup d'état” in 2018.

Lashtar does not usually make public comments, except in rare appearances for pro-government media. On the occasions he has done so, however, he exudes complacency, such as the time when, in another article, he described Rosario Murillo as a “symbol of struggle in the historic revolutionary transformation, in the lives of women”.

Unlike his public statements of flattery for his bosses, most personal information about Lasthar is unknown. The former deputy to Parlacen for the FSLN has kept a low profile over the past three decades, despite Ortega's alliance with Gaddafi, which allowed the caudillo to finance himself and Lasthar to climb the ranks of the Nicaraguan regime.

Lasthar emerged from his work in the shadows and made an appearance on the international stage in two recent news items: on March 3, 2023, Ortega appointed him as ambassador to Tunisia, and on February 6, 2023, he was identified as a member of a network of illicit gold launderers in the international market, working for the Nicaraguan tyrant, by US investigator Douglas Farah. 

On November 15, 2021, Gaddafi's nephew and operator to Ortega, was sanctioned by the United States. Thanks precisely to information from the US Treasury Department, it is possible to know some personal details such as the fact that he has three passports: one Libyan (NG252351), another Nicaraguan (C1102007), and a diplomatic one also issued by Nicaragua (A00000271).

His home is located in the residential area of Las Colinas, in Managua, and he has a Nicaraguan ID card: 777-170559-0000M. This documentation identifies him as Nicaraguan since he received his nationality on April 11, 1990, at the end of the first period of the Sandinista government, according to resolution 1039 signed by the director of Migration and Alien Affairs at the time, Ana Isabel Morales.

Nine official appointments since 2007

Ortega came to power on January 10, 2007, and from the very first moment, he had Lashtar in mind when he made his first cabinet appointments. 

In total, the ruler has appointed Lashtar to at least nine public posts in Nicaragua. These appointments have been recorded in La Gaceta Diario Oficial and include private secretary to the president; private secretary for international affairs; special ambassador for foreign affairs; delegate for Africa, Middle East, and Arab countries; ambassador to Kuwait and concurrent ambassador to Egypt, Jordan, People's Democratic Republic of Algeria and Saudi Arabia.  

Official records also indicate that between 2007 and 2011, Lashtar served in the Central American Parliament as an alternate deputy for Jacinto Suarez, who had passed away and was close to Ortega and Murillo during his political career. This legislative function was exercised during that period in parallel to his other public positions.

Two diplomatic sources consulted by CONFIDENCIAL agreed that these appointments are the authority of the president, who generally receives gratitude when he makes it effective, while the foreign ministers receive “curses” when they are removed.

They also expressed that Lashtar's case is not usual and that, actually, he does not serve as a “diplomat”, but as “an operator of the hidden interests of the presidential couple”

“Usually, the person is appointed as ambassador in one country and also represents other countries. Lashtar's situation reflects the dynastic character of the current dictatorship. He is seen as the envoy of the family. That is the logic that they proceed with and the reason why he represents the government in so many different places,” said one of the informants.

“Since he is of Arab origin, Libyan, from the Maghreb, supposedly this allows them to have more income (of resources), I rather believe that, instead of looking for money, they are looking for where to place and hide things,” he said.

From left to right: Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and Mohamed Farrara Lashtar, in November 2019. Photo: Taken from 19 Digital

The perspective of this source is partially in line with that of Farah, an American researcher who, in an interview with Esta Semana and CONFIDENCIAL, stated that countries of the Middle East trade in gold and it is advantageous to have an ambassador who speaks that language and can move in that region with diplomatic immunity, as is the case of Lashtar.

Lasthar was also mentioned in the case of the Panama Papers, an investigation of 80 media, led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism and of which CONFIDENCIAL was part. In 1998, the company Laurel Properties Inc. was registered in Panama, which granted a general power of attorney to Lashtar.

How Lashtar met Ortega and Murillo 

The ambassador is known within the Ortega circle, and he used to serve the radical leftist movements in Latin America under his mandate in the nineties. However, his links with Libyan dictator Gaddafi were made public through the leak of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2011, known as Wikileaks, disclosed by a journalistic alliance between CONFIDENCIAL and Costa Rican newspaper La Nación. 

According to Wikileaks, it was Ambassador Paul Trivelli (2005-2008), who learned of the existence of Mohamed Lashtar through information obtained from internal sources in Nicaragua. During the eighties, before naturalizing, the Libyan worked in the commercial section of the embassy of his country and it was said that he was associated with “Libyan intelligence”.

Other sources confirmed that he was the Libyan ambassador to Nicaragua from 2005-2006. A source of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), consulted for this report, explained that Lashtar was directly associated with Rafael Ortega Murillo, the eldest son of the presidential couple, when the Sandinista leader traveled to Libya to collect Gaddafi's monetary contribution, which occurred with a frequency of one to two times a year, in the stage after the electoral defeat.

During that political stage, which Ortega called “governing from below,”  the Sandinista received a remittance from his Libyan friend. He even acknowledged it publicly in an interview with journalist Fabián Medina.

The FSLN source relates that the Sandinista leader used to take six weeks for each trip he made to that country, using Rafael Ortega Murillo as aide-de-camp or any of his sons who traveled with him.  This allowed him to develop a personal relationship with the Libyan dictator.

The FSLN source details that the trips that the Sandinista leader made to that country would take six weeks, using Rafael Ortega Murillo or any of his other sons who traveled with him, as an aide-de-camp. This allowed him to develop a personal relationship with the Libyan dictator.

In Nicaragua, Mohamed Lasthar was seen as a source of “independent financing” to the FSLN that was separate from his uncle, as he was someone with his own life and own businesses. 

“That relationship was personal. Gaddafi would give him the money in checks and Ortega would deposit them in his Panamanian accounts. That money was used by the secretary general (of the FSLN) to build his own patrimony, with which he took advantage of other factions of the same political organization in the nineties. I am referring to Bayardo Arce, who managed the party's capital. That is how instrumental the support that the dictator received at that time was,” explains the same source. 

The source does not know what business Lashtar was engaged in, but he does confirm that the attention of radical leftist groups was delegated to him. “Tell Mohamed to assist the Peruvians,” Ortega ordered, referring to members of the Shining Path.

Ortega had an important link to Gaddafi. In 2000 and 2003, the FARC sought out the Nicaraguan leader to secure approval for millions in funding from Libya, according to two messages found on the computer of former Colombian guerrilla leader Raul Reyes in 2008 and published in June that same year by La Prensa newspaper.

Reyes was killed in a Colombian bombing of his camp in Ecuador. “As you will understand, if we were living under different conditions in Colombia, we would have privileged a personal interview with you to talk not only about this issue. On the occasion of our meeting with the Libyans, they themselves explained the political responsibilities of comrade Daniel Ortega to us, with the execution of the Libyan government's policies in our region”, Reyes wrote to Ortega on February 22, 2003

Lashtar was a founding partner in Channel 13

According to documentation from the Mercantile Registry of Managua, revealed in journalistic investigations, Lashtar was a founding partner of Celeste, S.A., the mercantile name of Channel 13, directed by the children of the presidential couple: Maurice, Camila, and Luciana Ortega Murillo.

In April 2011, journalistic investigations also revealed that, while the children held the most public positions in the television station, the founding partners were Lashtar, María Luisa Mejía Martínez, and Sandra Guevara.

Mejía Martínez is recognized as Rosario Murillo's lawyer and Guevara has worked directly for Ortega for decades.

This is not the first time that the suitability of diplomats holding positions for Nicaragua during Ortega's administration has been independently questioned. In 2009, it became known that former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a fugitive in his country, was traveling with a Nicaraguan diplomatic passport.

Ortega has protected other fugitives from justice in their respective countries, such as former Salvadoran presidents Salvador Sánchez Cerén and Mauricio Funes, who were also nationalized along with their closest relatives.

Lashtar's business facet is also partially known in the country. He is associated with the Nicarabe Libyan Agricultural Company for Development (ANILIB) where he held the position of president of the Board, according to information published in June 2016 in La Gaceta.

That seems to be a key Libyan enterprise on Nicaraguan soil. The Sandinista caudillo donated two farms to ANILIB, “San Ramón” and “Santa Gertrudis”, according to decree 117-2008. According to a journalistic investigation, the State paid 1.45 million dollars at the end of the 1990s for the San Ramón Farm, located in San Francisco Libre. Neither Ortega nor the Libyan embassy have commented on the issue since then.

A time when they joined forces on issues of mutual interest, was with the death of Gaddafi's relatives in May 2011. Ortega denounced the “massacre” in Caracas, and two months later the ambassador told the pro-government media that only the Nicaraguan leader and the ALBA countries gave a “message for peace” about the situation in his country.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff.

Octavio Enríquez

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado en Costa Rica. Comenzó su carrera en el año 2000, cuando todavía era estudiante. Por sus destacadas investigaciones periodísticas ha ganado el Premio Ortega y Gasset, el Premio Internacional de Periodismo Rey de España, el Premio a la Excelencia de la Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa, y el Premio Latinoamericano de Periodismo de Investigación del Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS).


Empresa de cónsul de Daniel Ortega en México, vinculada a la muerte de 39 migrantes

Publicidad F