CAIRO: Egypt’s top prosecutor seized all the funds of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak and his family on Monday and banned them from travel abroad.
Egypt’s graft authority said on Monday it would take the necessary steps to expose secret bank accounts of the ousted president and his family, the official news agency MENA reported.
During the 18-day pro-democracy uprising, unconfirmed reports that Mubarak and his family might have amassed billions, or even tens of billions of dollars over their three decades in power fueled protesters already enraged over massive corruption and poverty in Egypt.
Mubarak was forced out of the president’s office on Feb. 11 by the military, who have promised to meet many of the protesters’ demands. He is now believed to be living in seclusion with his family in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. The Prosecutor General had already frozen the assets of the ousted president, his wife, two sons and their wives on Feb. 21.
The prosecutor charged Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit with contacting foreign countries to seek the assets freeze.
A judicial official said at the time that the prosecutor’s office had received several complaints regarding Mubarak’s wealth being outside the country, “which necessitates an investigation.”
Mubarak is widely thought to have grown wealthy during his rule, but an unidentified legal adviser has been quoted as saying talk of a multi-billion-dollar fortune was nothing but “a groundless rumor”.
Nearly half the 80 million Egyptians live under or near the poverty line set by the World Bank at $2 a day. Mubarak is suspected of turning a blind eye to corruption by family members and their associates, while many of the allegations of wrongdoing centered on the business activity of his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, and their wives’ families.
Unlike other Arab leaders, particularly those in the oil-rich Gulf nations, Mubarak was far from ostentatious. Whatever wealth he and his family may have had was rarely — if ever — flaunted.
The most prominent symbol of their presumed fortune that has surfaced was a townhouse in London’s exclusive Knightsbridge district, which is listed under Gamal Mubarak’s name and where he was said to have lived while working as an investment banker in the early 1990s. The townhouse has become a focal point for many in Egypt as foreign governments begin to either enact, or consider freezing the family’s assets.
Gamal Mubarak was the ousted leader’s one-time heir apparent, although they never confirmed the plan and remained evasive on the topic almost until the very end. The younger Mubarak rose rapidly through the ranks of his father’s National Democratic Party, or NDP, over the past decade to become the country’s most powerful politician after the president, who is 82.
In the NDP, Gamal Mubarak surrounded himself with mega-rich businessmen who sought political careers to promote their business interests. Between them, they introduced far-reaching economic reforms that benefited the businessmen. But any prosperity Egypt ever enjoyed never trickled to the impoverished majority.
Several of those businessmen are now in prison and subject to criminal investigations as the ruling military pushes ahead with a campaign to cleanse the country from the corruption of the ousted regime.
Alaa Mubarak’s wealth has been the subject of much speculation from well before the political rise of his younger brother. There are allegations that he used the family name to muscle in on profitable enterprises, taking a cut of profits without contributing to the funds invested or work done.
Monday’s edition of the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, for generations the traditional flagship of the state media in Egypt, splashed on its front page a complaint filed to the Prosecutor General by a former lawmaker that detailed the funds held by the Mubaraks in Egypt.
The complaint only mentioned Mubarak when it alleged that he gave his wife Suzanne control of the funds available to the Library of Alexandria, a modern version of the historic library believed to have been destroyed by a fire or an earthquake in late antiquity.
The complaint said Alaa and Gamal Mubarak had tens of millions of pounds and dollars in “secret” accounts at the National Bank of Egypt, one of four state-owned banks in Egypt. It referred to deposits of $147 million for Mubarak’s wife and $100 million each for his sons.
Switzerland was the first foreign country to say it was moving to identify and freeze assets of Mubarak and his family. The European Union said last week it was considering a request from Egypt to freeze the assets of Mubarak’s top aides. The EU said, however, that no such request had been submitted about the Mubaraks.