The seizure comes after Chancellor George Osborne froze Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s £900million of UK-based assets last weekend.
A spokesman added: “A vessel which had been heading to Libya returned to the UK on Wednesday morning. “The ship was escorted into the port of Harwich by the UK Border Agency cutter HMC Vigilant.
“A number of containers were offloaded from the boat and have been taken under control of UK Border Agency and have been moved to a secure location. “The cargo is understood to contain a significant quantity of Libyan currency, which is subject to a UN sanction.”
Reports suggested the ship was carrying £100million worth of the Libyan currency, the dinar, but the Home Office refused to confirm the exact value.
It is understood the ship was intercepted after being tracked to British waters when it aborted an attempt to dock in the Libyan capital Tripoli over the weekend. The UK also banned the unlicensed export of any uncirculated Libyan banknotes from Britain in line with UN sanctions. Libyan currency is printed in a warehouse in the north east of England. The seizure comes after an attempt by Gaddafi’s allies to export £900million worth of notes was foiled by the Treasury last week.
A Border Agency ship met the cargo vessel and escorted it to Harwich harbour where officials found the cash in Libyan currency. Gaddafi’s regime is increasingly short of money as countries around the world including the UK freeze its assets.
Britain has now put more than £2billion in assets out of reach of Gaddafi and his inner circle. But the dictator needs more funds as he offers his citizens cash inducements to stay loyal to his regime and allegedly hires mercenaries at £18,000 a man.
Meanwhile it was reported at least 30 people were killed and dozens injured after the army opened fire on protesters in the Libyan city of Zawiyah. Although the facts cannot be verified, it is thought pro-Gaddafi forces entered the city and fired at around 60 protesters, who then returned fire. A number of people were shot, including a rebel commander who was killed.
This then set off another march of thousands of people – many of whom were unarmed – who were subsequently shot at by the military.
Many of the demonstrators were shot in the head, neck and chest.
The western port city, which is about 30 miles from the capital Tripoli, has been surrounded by the dictator’s security forces.