UN offers Egypt a hand to recover Mubarak regime assets, figures

Amer Sultan in London, Tuesday 1 May 2012

Global body's anti-corruption unit is willing to share its expertise as Cairo struggles to locate and repatriate funds spirited overseas during the dying days of the Mubarak regime

Mubarak assets
Overturning the Mubarak regime was the quick part: tracing and repatriating its money is taking somewhat longer (Photo: Reuters)

The United Nations has offered to help broker the return of Egyptian fugitives as well as assets that were spirited out of the country after last year's uprising.

The global body is aware of the internal pressures the Egyptian government is under to recover assets, a UN official told Ahram Online.
"We are absolutely ready to mediate to help Egypt accelerate the efforts to recover its stolen assets," said Hussein Hassan, from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The UK and Switzerland are among the countries which have frozen funds belonging to Egyptians with links to former president Hosni Mubarak. No reliable estimate is available as to the total value of these allegedly misbegotten assets.
Adding to anger is the status of convicted ex-regime officials such as Youssef Boutros Ghali, the former finance minister handed a prison sentence by a Cairo court but who now lives free overseas. 
Hassan, who heads the UN's anti-corruption operations in the Middle East and North Africa, said the organisation, if asked, would be willing to provide the Egyptian government with expertise and legal support.
But Hassan pointed out that the UN would not be able to intervene in any legal cases regarding funds or fugitivies that are currently before foreign courts.
Egypt welcomed the UNODC offer, saying it will accept any help to recover assets and convince other countries to extradite "corrupt Egyptian fugitives".
Assem El-Gohary, Egypt's assistant minister of justice and head of the country's Illicit Gains Department, said: "We will ask for any help and turn every single stone to recover Egypt's monies.
"These monies belong to Egypt's future generations, not only to this generation, and nobody has the right to concede them," he added. 
Last week, UNODC's regional office for the Middle East and North Africa held an international workshop on ways to help Egypt recover assets and fugitives.
Thirty-five experts and legal and judicial officials from Egypt, USA, Britain, France, Switzerland, Spain and Guernsey participated in the meeting.  
This event was a part of the project entitled 'Supporting Measures to Combat Corruption and Money Laundering, and to Foster Asset Recovery, in Egypt,' which is funded by the European Union.
UNDOC said the project's aim was to help Egypt implement the United Nations Convention against Corruption and establish an effective mechanism to combat corruption and money laundering.
Hassan said the UN was aware that Egyptian governmental authorities, tasked with recovering allegedly stolen assets, are under huge pressure from the Egyptian people to recover them. But legal and jurisdiction problems in some countries are thwarting speedy repatriation.
An Egyptian ministry of justice official praised the meeting as an opportunity for Egyptian authorities to benefit from the experience of countries.
He added that the event was of great help in illuminating the political, legal and technical ways to overcome specific legal obstacles in certain countries.
Officials told Ahram Online that a number of closed-doors meeting were held on the fringe of event, with Egyptian officials and their counterparts from six other countries discussing bilateral issues relating to assets recovery.    
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