The British government is facing embarrassing questions over the continued presence in London of Egypt's ex-finance minister Youssef Boutrous-Ghali despite an outstanding Interpol request for his arrest.
Boutros-Ghali, who fled Egypt in February 2011, has been seen at least twice in public over the last four months, stirring anger among the UK's Egyptian community.
The Mubarak-era finance minister was last year sentenced in absentia to 30 years in prison by a Cairo court on corruption charges.
Egyptian prosecutors have demanded Boutros-Ghali's arrest and extradition, backed by 13 British members of parliament and a notice from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). But while Interpol's involvement seemed to promise a swift resolution to the issue, the reality has been more complex.
Boutros-Ghali's extradition depends on UK police making an arrest and there seems little indication of their willingness to do so. UK authorities -- including the Home Office which would sign-off on the extradition -- are refusing to comment on the case.
The former minister's details are prominently listed on Interpol's website, and the global body is understood to have officially informed the UK of its 'red note' which calls for Boutros-Ghali's apprehension.
However there are no agreements between Interpol and the UK that oblige the latter to make the arrest -- and the 'red notice' does not count as an international arrest order.
Interpol does not have the authority to directly issue such warrants, the organisation admitted to Ahram Online, adding that arresting someone is the sole domain of the sovereign member state.
As per procedure, Interpol's arrest warrant has been sent to UK Interpol, part of the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA). But speaking to Ahram Online, the SOCA said it had little authority either.
“We do not have the power to arrest anybody as we are only the conduit passing arrest requests to UK police [which is] responsible for implementing any arrest warrant,” a spokesman told Ahram Online.
He would neither confirm or deny whether his organisation had received a warrant to arrest Boutros-Ghali.
UK police authorites are similarly tight-lipped, with a spokesperson saying they cannot discuss any case until an arrest is made.
In the meantime, all enraged Egyptians in the UK can do is condemn the inaction, and grasp opportunities to berate Boutros-Ghali themselves.
In a recent statement, the UK's Egyptian Association said letting former Mubarak regime officials convicted of corruption live freely in London was unacceptable.
Last week an Egyptian resident of London saw Boutros-Ghali in the upscale neighbourhood of Knightsbridge and pursued him through the streets, branding him a "thief" and calling for his arrest. The exchange was filmed and uploaded on YouTube
, with Boutros-Ghali's interlocutor saying he was going to report the ex-minister to the police.
In January, the UK Parliament's House of Commons expressed its "concern that Ghali resides and roams freely in London despite having been sentenced in absentia to a 30-year prison term by an Egyptian court".
Thirteen MPs called for the British government to respond to the Egyptian request for Boutros-Ghali's extradition. Ahram Online understands that the UK Home Office is still considering the request.