Egypt govt to facilitate return of 'fleeing' businessmen

Ahram Online, Wednesday 13 Feb 2013

Egyptian justice ministry announces measures to facilitate return of businessmen accused of corruption in a move designed to encourage settlement of financial disputes

Ex ministers Garana, Maghrabi and Rashid
(L) to (R) Ex-ministers Garana, Maghrabi and Rashid

A new 'reconcilement law' is expected to speed up the return of businessmen who fled Egypt due to corruption allegations, giving them immunity from imprisonment or travel restrictions, according to justice ministry officials.

"The law will encourage businessmen to settle their financial disputes," said Sherif Omar, head of the legislative committee at the justice ministry.

Businessmen who have already been convicted of offences will be subject to retrials without being legally bound to attend the court sessions, he added.

The Shura Council (lower house of parliament) ratified the law on Sunday.

"This is an important step to attract investors and boost confidence in the Egyptian economy. This will definitely return capital that has been lost since Mubarak was ousted and pump it back into the economy," an official at the justice ministry told Al-Ahram Arabic newspaper.

The law states that a committee, presided over by the justice minister, will include representatives from the foreign ministry and several governmental watchdogs to monitor the reconciliation process.

It is expected that such steps will lead dozens of businessmen to return to Egypt, and will contribute to the development of a sound investment environment, explained Omar.

Several businessmen and investor groups have welcomed the initiative and said it as an important step towards encouraging much-needed investment in Egypt.

"This is what we have been urging the government to consider for a long time. Businessmen need to feel safe and be able to take investment risks without the threat of being legally pursued. We are glad the government's mentality towards businessmen is changing," said Hussein Sabour, head of the Egyptian Business Association.

Several opposition groups and civil society organisations have opposed the government's move.

"The new law will allow the executive branch to oversee the reconciliation process without real judicial supervision," the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights explained in a statement on Tuesday.

"The committee could easily be politicised and pave the way for the return of Mubarak-era officials," the statement added.

Since Egypt's revolution in 2011, a number of Mubarak-regime figures have been tried for profiteering and financial corruption, including strongman Hussein Salem, ex-ministers Rachid Mohamed Rachid, Ahmed El-Maghrabi and Zuhair Garana.

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