Egypt failed to cooperate in repatriation of Mubarak assets: British Authorities

Amer Sultan in London, Thursday 2 Feb 2012

British team investigating Mubarak family's UK assets mystified at lack of cooperation from Egyptian authorities

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak lies on his bed while being taken to the courtroom at the police academy in Cairo (Photo: AP)

Egyptian authorities have failed to respond to a UK initiative aimed at the repatriation of frozen financial assets belonging to former high-ranking Mubarak regime officials, Ahram Online has learned from informed sources.

According to these sources, the British team dealing with frozen Egyptian financial assets in the UK has invited its Egyptian counterpart to visit London to discuss legal means of repatriating the assets in question to Egypt. The relevant Egyptian authorities, however, have thus far failed to respond to the overture, said the sources.

"We asked them to come to London to help fill out various important forms, which would guarantee that the money is repatriated," an official source, who requested anonymity, said. "We are still ready and keen to help but we can’t do more than we did."

In March of last year, UK Treasury Assets Freezing Unit (AFU) froze assets worth some £42 million (roughly LE420 million) owned by a handful of Mubarak regime officials. The move came in response to a new EU regulation issued in March of last year that calls for the freezing of all funds owned or controlled by anyone found responsible for the misappropriation of public monies and those associated with them.

The move targeted 19 people, including former president Hosni Mubarak, his wife Suzanne, his two sons and their wives, and a handful of former ministers.

According to UK law, Egyptian authorities must follow specific procedures to repatriate assets. This includes providing UK authorities with proof that that the monies in question were illegally pilfered from the public purse.

The UK treasury has pledged not to impose a deadline by which Egypt must finalise the legal procedures needed to claim the frozen assets.

"We will not unfreeze the assets even if its owners legally challenge UK authorities," a UK Treasury spokesman told Ahram Online. "The only way to unfreeze the assets is for the EU to issue an unfreezing order."

It is highly unlikely that the EU would take such an action, however, the spokesman added.

He went on to explain that, once Egyptian authorities provided evidence and a judicial order to repatriate the assets, the whole file could be referred to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) with a view to obtaining a UK court order to release frozen assets to Egypt.

SOCA, in turn, has confirmed its readiness to help Egyptian authorities repatriate the frozen assets. A SOCA spokesman told Ahram Online that the organisation would also respond positively to any request to trace ill-gotten Egyptian money or assets in the UK.

Egyptian authorities did not respond to UK initiative.

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