Mubarak's wealth finally in the spotlight

Marwa Hussein, Tuesday 15 Feb 2011

While granting himself the authority to rule on all corruption cases in Egypt, Mubarak is said to have overseen a regime as well as a ruling family with rampant appetites for ill-gotten wealth

(Photo: Reuters)

During his 30 years of mandate, the ousted president Hosni Mubarak manipulated the country’s regulations in a way that makes it hard to pursue the president of the republic or to confiscate his wealth. A group called “rekabiyoun” (regulators against corruption) formed by civil servants at the Central Auditing Organization (CAO) denounced the law governing its work as controllers of public money.

“The last amendment made to the law of the CAO in 1998 put the organization under the control of the president while the president is one of the actors that are supposed to be under the control of the CAO”, said Ibrahim Gad, supervisor in the Gharbeya governorate (100 km north Cairo).

This change effectively means that Mubarak would have reviewed and judged any accusations of corruption made against him.

Rekabiyoun has said that they will organize a sit-in in front of the CAO’s headquarter in Cairo tomorrow to denounce corruption and inefficiency in their own organism accusing Gawdat Al-Malt, the head of the CAO, for spreading corruption. They seek the reclamation of the CAO’s complete independence in addition to merging it with the Administrative Control Authority and the Administrative Prosecution Authority, allowing them to punish and not only expose corruption.

According to Gad, before the 1952 coup, the CAO (created in 1942) was independent of the government. He remembers when the head of the CAO resigned in 1950 because the king asked him to omit a contravention concerning LE5000 against his press advisor. “The CAO also unearthed a lot of facts in the case of the fraudulent arms in 1948,” adds Gad.

The situation started to change when an army man was nominated as a head of the organization following the officers’ coup.  

“Now the head of CAO has reports of contraventions that reach LE500 billion and he took no serious actions. He said that some issues were politically sensitive; the CAO should not be affected by political sensitivity, he has a role to do.”

George Ishaq, a member of the National Organization for Change, said they were gathering information from friends and connections all over the world about the Mubarak’s family assets and wealth. “To pursue Mubarak and freeze his funds, the actual government should ask the world’s governments to do so, we are trying to make pressures on the government to do so,” says Ishaq.

News and rumors have spread about the Mubarak's family fortune since the start of the Egyptian revolution. The latest to emerge came yesterday when it was revealed that Gamal Mubarak, the president's son, has holdings in the investment bank EFG-Hermes through foreign investment funds.

EFG-Hermes, the leading investment bank in Egypt and the Arab world, said on Sunday that Gamal Mubarak's stake in the bank was limited to an 18 per cent holding in a subsidiary, EFG Private Equity. EFG-Hermes, has listed assets of $8 billion as of 2010.

Many businessmen linked with the Mubarak family have important investments shrouded in suspicion. The biggest land deals in the country were made as direct allocations by the government without competitive tenders and for low prices, including land given to the fathers in law of the fallen president’s two sons.

Questions about the fortune of Mubarak and his family were raised after The Guardian published an article estimating Mubarak's family fortune could be as much as $70bn according to analysis by Middle East experts. "Much of this wealth is in British and Swiss banks or tied up in real estate in London, New York, Los Angeles and along expensive tracts of the Red Sea coast," said the article. However there is no proof whether those figures are correct with estimates starting at two billion dollars, as United States officials said a few days after the Guardian published its figures.

On the same night Mubarak stepped down, Swiss authorities announced they were freezing any assets Mubarak and his family may hold in the country's banks. According to western intelligence sources this may have been too late as Mubarak is alleged to have used his last 18 days in power to secure his fortune by shifting it into untraceable accounts overseas.

"We're aware of some urgent conversations within the Mubarak family about how to save these assets," said the source. "And we think their financial advisers have moved some of the money around. If he had real money in Zurich, it may be gone by now."

In the U.K, a spokesman for Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said the financial crime agency was looking for assets in Britain linked to Mubarak in case there was any request to seize them. However, Britain has yet to take any measures to freeze the family funds. "Britain has to await a request from Egypt, or from the European Union or the United Nations, before freezing any of Mubarak's assets," the SFO spokesman said.

Short link: