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Swiss financial authorities report 'suspicious activities' in Egypt

Switzerland's money-laundering office received 55 suspicious-activity reports involving Egypt last year, for offences ranging from bribery to organised crime and embezzlement

Ahram Online, Friday 18 May 2012
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The Money Laundry Reporting Office in Switzerland (MROS) received 55 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) involving Egypt in 2011, a recent MROS report has revealed.

MROS, part of the Swiss Federal Police, issues a report every year detailing questionable financial activity taking place internationally. The report is based on information collected from various money transmitters around the world.  

According to the report, 2011 saw a total of 1,625 SARs worth a total of some 3 billion Swiss francs (roughly $3.12 billion). Bribery was at the top of the list of offences, with 37 cases involving Egypt. In the case of Tunisia, meanwhile, most reported incidents involved money laundering activity.

The amount ascribed to suspicious activities in Egypt reached a total of $367 million, according to the MROS report, of which the 37 bribery cases accounted for some $308 million. Seven embezzlement cases accounted for $38 million, meanwhile, and ten organised crime cases accounted for some $21 million.

Since Egypt's Tahrir Square uprising early last year, numerous media reports have emerged detailing the alleged wealth of figures associated with the ousted Mubarak regime. Switzerland has frozen the assets of several former regime officials at the request of Egyptian authorities.

The total amount related to Egypt reached 410 million francs, Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman Lars Knuche declared in May of last year. According to the report, 156 Egyptian nationals and legal entities had been the subject of inquiries by foreign Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) in 2011.

Last year, Egypt's Illicit Gains Authority estimated the value of such Swiss-based assets at $450 million. Most of these funds – some $340 million – are believed to be under the names of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's two sons.

In total, Switzerland had frozen some 830 million francs in funds belonging to North African dictators since the onset of the 'Arab Spring' early last year.  

The MROS did not receive a single SAR from Egypt or Tunisia in 2010. The report attributes the recent increase in SARs to the ongoing wave of Arab popular uprisings.

A total of 139 SARs have been initiated from countries that experienced political turmoil in 2011, including Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and the Ivory Coast.

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