Egypt’s failure urgently to pursue the wealth of ex-president Hosni Mubarak, his family and main associates risks damaging efforts to tackle possible graft under the old regime, anti-corruption experts have warned.
The military-run authorities in Cairo are seeking European Union asset freezing orders against seven individuals linked to the former government, but not Mr Mubarak or any of his relatives, according to people familiar with the matter.
Anti-graft specialists say Egypt needs to take immediate action to freeze Mubarak-related bank accounts and other assets, to bar any attempt to cash them in or salt them in secretive financial havens – as has happened in other countries where autocrats have been deposed, such as Nigeria a decade ago.
Maud Perdriel-Vaissière, legal adviser at Sherpa, a Paris-based group that pursues assets allegedly stolen by dictators and their associates, said it “strongly regretted” that the Egyptian request for international help didn’t cover Mr Mubarak.
She said: “Recent claims about the size of his wealth have caused much concern, and the only way to prevent this money from being shifted abroad to non-cooperative jurisdictions is to get it frozen as soon as possible. This is a crucial development issue for a country where nearly 40 per cent of the country’s 80 million people live on US$2 or less a day.”
The Egyptian request to the EU, submitted this week in the wake of Mr Mubarak’s resignation on Friday, covered seven individuals already subject to asset-freezing orders issued by the domestic prosecutor, one person familiar with its contents said. They include Habib el-Adly, former head of the interior ministry and supervisor of the country’s despised police force, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, the former trade and industry minister, and Ahmed Ezz, a steel magnate and former senior official of Mr Mubarak’s National Democratic party.
Mr Rachid has suggested the order against him was issued because he turned down an invitation to join a new government appointed by Mr Mubarak during his last days in power. Mr Ezz has said any allegations that he has been involved in corruption or the embezzlement of public funds are groundless.
Mr el-Adly couldn’t be reached, while Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, the public prosecutor, didn’t respond to a request for an interview.
Mr Mubarak ruled Egypt for almost 30 years and he and his family – notably his sons Gamal and Alaa – are widely thought to have amassed significant wealth during his time in office, although they have never been investigated or charged with any offence.
The public prosecutor’s decision to issue an asset-freezing order that does not include the Mubaraks highlights the difficulty of pursuing former autocrats in countries where the new rulers are politically reluctant to go after them, analysts say.
Negad el-Borai, a human rights lawyer who has brought cases involving alleged Egyptian public corruption, said he did not expect the new army rulers to want to go after Mr Mubarak, a former military man, as they had been an important part of his administration.
He said: “The protesters kicked Mubarak out of power. But they didn’t destroy the regime.”
The Egyptian request to EU states comes after the Swiss government on Friday froze all accounts held by Mr Mubarak, his family and selected prominent Egyptians linked closely with his administration.
The list covered included Mr Mubarak and his wife, their two sons and their respective wives, as well as Mr Mubarak’s brother-in law.
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