The British Asset Recovery Taskforce held a press conference in Cairo on Monday, addressing the efforts being made by the British government to recover money kept overseas by former President Hosni Mubarak and those associated with him.
The British minister of state for crime prevention and head of the task force, Jeremy Browne, said Britain is committed to recovering as much of the money stolen by the Mubarak regime and its associates as possible, but warned Egyptians that the process would be lengthy.
“There are definite benefits in the short-term,” Browne said. “But the big money will take some time to be recovered.”
The taskforce was set up in September 2012 by the British government to track down assets linked to the Mubarak regime, in order to return the funds to Egypt. Browne repeatedly stressed that the rule of law must be respected, and therefore the government could not move any faster.
“We have the oldest rule of law on the planet,” Brown said. “The government cannot simply seize an individual’s assets unless we can prove it was gained illegally.” Browne said this was not an excuse, but merely an explanation for the lengthy process.
Browne announced during the conference that a team of experts would be established in Egypt to work alongside both the local investigators as well as the team in London, adding that there was no benefit for Britain to become a safe-haven for illegal assets. “Obviously this investigation is costing Britain money, and it is not in the government’s interest to stall the investigation,” Brown said.
The taskforce emphasised the difficulty of retrieving all the money, saying that it was not only located in Britain, but across the globe. “We cannot comment on the amount of money held overseas,” Brown said, adding that large sums of money are hidden “in imaginative and complicated ways” and that speculating on a figure would lead to expectations the taskforce cannot promise to uphold.
Jonathan Benton, the Metropolitan police inspector, said following the money trail was the only way to discover where money is hidden, and assured Egypt that Britain has a lot of expertise. “We hope we can have a global leadership role in asset recovery,” Browne said
Browne also commented on the political turmoil in Egypt, saying the frequent reshuffling has slowed down the process due to communications having to be re-established every time the government has been reshuffled.
Britain’s current G8 presidency is an invaluable position which the government will use to push for further action internationally.