With Egypt’s prosecutor-general ordering that the assets and bank accounts of former president Hosni Mubarak and his family be frozen, the net appears to be closing on the vague but disturbing massive fortune accrued illegally by the country’s long time ruler.
Soon after the prosecutor’s announcement, Anwar Essmat El-Sadat, a nefew of late President Sadat and a leading member of the Reform and Development Party (as yet unlicensed) returned from a trip to London and Geneva where he went to track the assets of the Mubarak family abroad.
Sadat told Ahram Online that he was able to obtain documents confirming that the Mubarak family own enormous investment assets, stocks and property registered under the names of several close friends across the UK, Switzerland and Cyprus. He went on to state that he is submitting this evidence to a law firm that is working under the United Nations treaty to combat corruption, to which the Egyptian government is signatory.
Switzerland, the US, UK, Canada and Australia have already begun moves to freeze the Mubarak's assets.
The Egyptian ambassador to the UAE, Tamer Mansour, today said that Egypt had submitted a request that Mubarak’s assets and bank accounts in the emirate be frozen.
But with estimates of Mubarak's wealth ranging from $1bn to $70bn, finding as well as defining the ousted president’s fortune will not be an easy task, especially given the conflicting and overlapping network of interests between the business elite and the ousted family.
On 4 February, the Guardian estimated Mubarak's family fortune could be as much as $70bn, with much of his wealth in British and Swiss banks or tied up in real estate in London, New York, Los Angeles and along expensive tracts of the Red Sea coast.
Only two hours after Mubarak announced his resignation, the Swiss government was the first to react by freezing all assets he holds in its banks. The step was taken "to avoid any misappropriation of Egyptian government assets."
A week later, the Swiss foreign ministry said the country had blocked assets worth several tens of millions of Swiss francs held by Mubarak and members of his clan. The ministry spokesman Adrian Sollberger told Swiss News Agency said he was unable to give a precise figure.
However, according to the Swiss National Bank, Egyptian assets in the country’s banks totaled 3.6bn Swiss francs ($3.8bn) at the end of 2009.
New legislation was passed on 1 February as The Restitution of Illicit Assets Act (RIAA), enabling the Swiss government to immediately freeze and confiscate the funds of "politically exposed persons," even if the implicated nation has not asked for the money back to the country of origin.
But again, analysts are worried that the Mubaraks might have massive reserves held in bank accounts not in their real names.
The Egyptian government’s delayed action against Mubarak's family was an attempt by the army to show it is not taking sides and that it does not view anyone as being above the law. The move was also a way of absorbing the anger of protesters who are still taking to the streets to demand that Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq step down and former regime members are put on trial.
Last week, the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper stated Mubarak’s family had "secret accounts in Egyptian banks," including deposits of $147m for his wife Suzanne and $100m each for his sons Ala and Gamal and their wives Heidi Rasekh and Khadiga El-Gammal, without giving a more precise figure.