The United Kingdom has failed to help Egypt recover funds embezzled by the former regime, according to the BBC.
Three days after Hosni Mubarak left office, UK foreign secretary William Hague promised that the UK would “take firm and prompt action” in response to an Egyptian request for the return of money Mubarak, his family, and his coconspirators, had funneled into the country.
However, a BBC documentary that aired on Monday revealed that since the initial freezing of assets, no new assets have been discovered, no assets have been returned to Egypt, and those individuals under sanctions have been able to maintain homes and businesses in the UK’s capital, London.
The documentary came out the same day as a Reuters report claimed Washington and Cairo were closing in on a deal that would erase one billion dollars worth of Egyptian debt, and also at a time when Egypt is scrambling to prove they are prepared to receive a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) worth nearly five billion dollars.
None of that would be necessary if Egypt was able to reacquire the stolen wealth of just a few of the people that the UK has sanctioned, said Hesham Shamlool, head of the regulatory division for public funds at the Central Auditing Organisation.
“One or two of those who robbed Egypt, their money would be more than enough to erase Egypt’s debt and cover the IMF loan,” Shamlool told the Daily News Egypt. “The money would go to the general budget and the Central Bank and pump enough money into the economy to make it flourish.”
Assem al-Gohary head of the Egyptian Illicit Gains Authority, said in the documentary that Egypt needs assistance from the UK, which is not forthcoming. Not only is the UK accused of not assisting Egypt, but the BBC documentary points out several instances of blatant disregard for the sanctions themselves.
There is video of Gamal Mubarak’s beautiful apartment in an upscale London neighbourhood, reportedly worth around ten million pounds sterling and unfrozen. Then there is Medinvest Associates, a business of Gamal’s that was freely operating until February. Businesses by barred regime affiliates were even allowed to open after the sanctions were put in place, as evidenced by a London-based business started by Naglaa El-Gazaerly, wife of former Housing Minister Ahmed El-Maghraby.
The UK will not even tell Al-Gohary what money it has already frozen.
This is fairly typical of a stronger country dealing with a weaker one, said Shamlool. “That’s normal, the money is invested in the UK, so they don’t want to lose it. Their economy benefits.”
There seems to be a disconnect between the burden of proof, which the UK places on Egypt and the limited resources for investigation, which the UK possesses based on its legal structures and the fact that the hidden assets are physically located there.
Refuting the UK’s claim that its hands are tied, the BBC reported that Switzerland instantly froze all Swiss assets belonging to the old regime. Not only that, but the Swiss put a team of investigators on the case, which led to the discovery of hundreds of millions more sterling. In the end, the Swiss froze over £470 million, while the UK has frozen only £85 million.
The UK sanctions list includes Mubarak, his wife, two sons, and two daughters in law; the former minister of tourism, his wife and son; the former ministers of interior, trade, and housing, along with their respective wives; and parliamentarian Ahmed Ezz and all three of his wives.
“This money was stolen not only during Mubarak’s era, but Sadat’s as well,” said Shamlool, citing that period as the beginning of a systematic robbing of the Egyptian people by its ruling elite. However, Shamlool said that if President Mohammed Morsy gains a firmer grip on power, he has a shot at getting the money back. But until then, “the counter revolution is the reason we are not getting this money.”