The people of Britain still vividly recall the determination and bravery of people in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia demonstrating for freedom nearly two years ago. Those people were also calling for an end to corruption. Stolen assets are the fruits of the labour of ordinary citizens and, as Prime Minister David Cameron has said, they rightly belong to the people of the region. The UK wants to make this happen and the Prime Minister and I are committed to doing this as swiftly as possible.
As Minister of State for Crime Prevention, I have been given personal responsibility for delivering our renewed effort on asset recovery. Over the last few months I have been struck by the enormity and complexity of the task we all face, which is why I am travelling to Cairo next week. I want to see for myself the challenges both Egyptian and UK experts must deal with and reassure the Egyptian people that the British Government takes asset recovery extremely seriously.
In advance of my visit, I reviewed the work of the new UK Task Force on Asset Recovery. The Task Force brings together all the relevant UK agencies, including the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Leading members of the Task Force visited Cairo in November to strengthen links with their Egyptian counterparts. The visit was a great success and will be followed by further visits from CPS and
Metropolitan Police experts in the near future. In addition, a Regional Asset Recovery Adviser, to be based in Cairo, will deploy in the coming weeks to assist Egyptian, Libyan and Tunisian authorities and drive forward progress. The Prime Minster has also asked for a review of our own legal framework, to ensure we are doing everything we can to assist transition countries like Egypt.
More widely, the UK also wants to support international momentum on asset recovery and I see the UK’s G8 Presidency as an invaluable opportunity to keep this issue on the global radar and encourage greater partnership between countries.
Whilst this is all important work, and we are making good progress, I must add a small note of caution. It will take time to achieve the results we all want. Asset recovery requires painstaking work and we must ensure proper judicial processes are followed. Whilst there is a moral imperative for this work to be carried out swiftly, it should not be at the cost of depriving individuals of their rights.
Success also means working together. The Task Force brings welcome new energy and focus to our efforts, but we will only be truly successful if all involved invest the necessary time and energy to make our endeavour work.
So, with all this in mind, I am looking forward to my trip to Cairo with great anticipation and will continue to ensure the Task Force does what the Prime Minister has asked: make sure that assets that have been illegally taken from the people of the region go back to where they belong.
Jeremy Browne is Uk's Minister of State for Crime Prevention.