MP prepares to go to court to reclaim Britain's WW I debt

Yasmine Saleh
3 Min Read

CAIRO: MP Mohamed Khalil Kwaitah is preparing to go the International Court of Justice to reclaim alleged billions owed to Egypt by the British government.

In September 2008 independent researcher Ashraf Sabry said he discovered an 87-year-old document proving that Britain owes Egypt £28.8 billion. He claimed to have found an I.O.U at the Royal Archive in London stating that Britain had received a £3 million loan from Egypt during World War I.

Kwaitah is currently working with Sabry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and local NGOs specialized in legal issues to determine the procedures necessary to file a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice demanding the debt be repaid.

Kwaitah told Daily News Egypt that he received a copy of a document by Lord Milner who led the Milner Commission sent to Egypt after the 1919 revolution. At the time Egypt was a British protectorate.

The document, says Kwaitah, was addressed to British government officials expressing Milner’s gratitude for the £3 million Egypt had loaned his government.

“The Egyptian government has the right to reclaim this amount at any time, said Kwaitah, quoting the document.

The document was published in the state-run Al-Ahram daily newspaper on Feb. 21, 1921.

Nabil Abdel Fattah, political analyst and expert in international affairs, told Daily News Egypt that the “alleged debt is no news.

“Many trials were conducted during the time of presidents [Gamal Abdel] Nasser and [Anwar] Sadat, and even during [Hosni] Mubarak’s time. Proposals were filed asking the Egyptian government to seek out Britain’s debt to Egypt.

However, Abdel Fattah says these requests “are usually filed by politicians or PA members looking for attention.

The government supports these “shows, said Abdel Fattah, “especially in times of economic and social crisis to divert public attention.

“The documents used in these allegations usually lack the [necessary] legal grounds and the amount of money is always exaggerated, Abdel Fattah added.

Kwaitah, however, insists that Egypt has a right to reclaim that money, which economists have valued at £28.8 billion today.

The concept of seeking compensation for decades-old debts is not far-fetched. “Italy compensated Libya for the money it took during its [30-year] occupation and Germany compensated Israel for the Holocaust, Kwaitah said.

Abdel Fattah disagrees, saying that historically “no Arab country was able to collect any of the claimed debts from western colonizers, adding that Libya was only given a few billions from Italy as a kind of “consolation for using the Libyan economy, which Italy benefits from until now.

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