Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the hunt for Mubarak’s wealth; success not guaranteed

Dina Ezzat, Tuesday 12 Apr 2011

Officials work to track down Mubarak's assets abroad, but warn it will be hard to prove his guilt

File photo shows Egypt's President Mubarak attending a meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo(Photo: Reuters)

"We have already sent letters to several capitals where the Mubarak family is known or suspected to have money or assets; we have been on this file for weeks now," said a senior source from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The source spoke to Ahram Online following the statement by former President Hosni Mubarak on Al-Arabiya channel on Sunday, in which he denied owning any funds or assets outside Egypt and offered to provide any required authorization to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to verify his account.

The source added that "some assets and funds have already been traced" to several Western capitals and cities. Whatever has been traced so far is already frozen and will not be released until a court order decides that that the money or assets in question were gained through legitimate means.

"If the Mubaraks could prove that whatever money or assets they have anywhere in the world are acquired through legitimate means then there is no law in the world that can force them to give the money back," the same source said.

No official sources would reveal whether any of the money or assets found are in the name of Mubarak himself. They insisted that this something for the prosecutor-general to decide whether or not to reveal.

However, according to Egyptian diplomats overseas and Western diplomats in Egypt, some of the speculations offered on the volume and details of the Mubarak family’s wealth is inaccurate and exaggerated.

"But no, it is not completely untrue, of course not," added a Western diplomatic source.

Official legal sources, meanwhile, say that the Mubaraks do not stand a high risk of being proven guilty of acquisition of illicit funds. "To start with, some of the allegations levelled at the Mubaraks are very difficult to prove, like when they say that Alaa (the elder son of the former president) abused his position to acquire huge funds; you have to go case-by-case and prove that this or that amount or this or that building was acquired illegally," said one legal source.

Meanwhile, Western sources speaking to Ahram Online on condition of anonymity said that their countries cannot decide to return any funds or assets of the Mubaraks to the Egyptian government without clear proof that the money was illegally extracted from Egyptian state coffers.

According to one Western diplomatic source whose country is supposed to be the location of considerable funds and assets belonging to the Mubarak family, the freeze on these funds and assets was imposed in the third week of March only. "That is 10 days after Mubarak stepped down and about six or seven weeks after it became clear to the Mubaraks and their financial and legal advisors that things might take a wrong direction."

It was on the same date, more or less, that a freeze was imposed by Western countries on Mubarak family funds and assets, according to Western diplomatic sources.

For the Egyptian authorities to be able to trace any funds that were released before that date, these funds had to have been transmitted through bank accounts and not through other possible channels.

In his audio statement, Mubarak said that he and his wife Suzanne have no accounts or assets outside Egypt and that whatever funds or assets were acquired by his sons Alaa and Gamal were acquired through legitimate means.

An official legal source told Ahram Online on Monday that it could well be the case that what Mubarak said could be proven correct in a court of law.

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