Top Swiss prosecutor says probe into Egypt frozen funds 'nears final phase'

Ahram Online , Sunday 18 Dec 2016

Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber
File Photo: Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber. (AP)

The Attorney General of Switzerland Michael Lauber said on Saturday that investigations into the assets of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, his sons and associates are approaching a final phase and that tens of million of Swiss francs have recently been released, state news agency MENA reported.

Lauber, who was in a one-day visit to Cairo, said at a press briefing that 180 million Swiss francs has been unfrozen and released from Swiss banks so far, while another 430 million remains frozen.

On his visit, Lauber aimed at assessing the latest developments in the ongoing criminal proceedings and considering the next steps to be taken, while respecting the principles of sovereignty and independence, his office said in a statement on Thursday.

Lauber and his delegation also met on Saturday with representatives of the Egyptian committee for the restitution of assets located abroad.

This is Lauber's second visit to Egypt since the 2015 verdict against Mubarak in the case of presidential palaces. His last visit to Egypt was in January 2016.

The Swiss prosecutor said that the frozen assets of Mubarak and figures associated with him will be returned to their legal owners when the probe is finished. He said the money currently frozen relates to six people still under investigation, down from 14 since 2011.

The Egyptian government had conducted financial reconciliation deals with Mubarak-era business tycoon Hussein Salem and ex-minister Mohamed Mansour to restore billions of stolen funds, a decision that was respected by the Swiss judiciary, Lauber said.

The Office of Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) said in a statement that such reconciliation agreements meant that the OAG had dropped criminal proceedings against several persons in Switzerland and ordered the unblocking of frozen assets amounting to 180 million Swiss francs.

"As a consequence, the Swiss criminal investigation into suspicions of supporting and/or participating in a criminal organisation and money laundering is now being conducted against six persons; currently assets amounting to around 430 million swiss francs remain frozen," the statement added

Lauber said that the investigations are being carried out in accordance with Egyptian law and based on three principles: speed, establishing the identities of the figures whose assets have been frozen, and complete independence.

He added that the Swiss Federal General Prosecution is trying its best to conclude the investigations. But he asserted that the speed of the process is not only Switzerland's responsibility.

"All sides should do more efforts to move forward with that case," he said.

"Since opening these proceedings, the OAG has on several occasions requested the Arab Republic of Egypt for information on developments in proceedings and the legal situation in Egypt in relation to the suspects in the Swiss investigation, and also with regard to the court judgments issued against these suspects in Egypt," the statement said.

According to the OAG, the Swiss prosecutors have made "a detailed analysis of the Egyptian judgments and decisions with regard to their potential impact on frozen assets in Switzerland."

The OAG said it has been "conducting its own inquiries into the origin of these frozen assets."

It said it would take account of the decisions of the Egyptian committee for the restitution of assets located abroad.

"The main challenges for the Swiss criminal proceedings," according to the statement, "remain the large amount of frozen assets and respecting the requirement to act promptly so that parties' rights are not infringed. The latter is important primarily because the Arab Republic of Egypt has the status of a private claimant in the Swiss proceedings."

During his visit, Lauber extended his condolences to Egypt after a recent terrorist attack on a Cairo Church that killed 25 people. He stressed his country's support for Egypt in its fight against terrorism. 

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