Out of hands: William Hague (Photo: Reuters)
The UK government announced last week that Egypt was now responsible for the repatriation of frozen assets that once belonged to leading members of the ousted Mubarak regime.
"We expect the procedures of the return of the frozen assets to Egypt to be quicker if the Egyptian authorities accepted our initiative to second one of our legal experts to them," a well-placed UK official source told Ahram Online.
Efforts to repatriate the assets had been among the main issues discussed between Egyptian officials and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague during the latter's recent visit to Cairo.
"To take this important work forward, the UK has proposed seconding an expert to work in the Egyptian prosecutor-general’s office," Hague was quoted as saying at the time.
The legal expert would be mandated with helping Egyptian authorities better understand the nuances of the UK's judicial system, so as to allow them to file the documents needed to have the frozen assets released.
Since March of last year, the UK Treasury's Asset Frozen Unit has frozen some £85 million (roughly $133 million) worth of assets, bank accounts and properties belonging to Egypt's ousted president, members of his family and other figures associated with his toppled regime.
"One problem is that the evidence and documents sent by the Egyptian authorities to its UK counterparts are not sufficient and not filed properly as the UK's legal system requires," the source said.
He added: "This is a big problem as it hinders UK authorities from being able to push forward the process of asset repatriation."
According to the British legal system, the government must have all required documents and evidence before it can ask the courts to issue a repatriation order.
As it currently stands, the UK government is awaiting an Egyptian response to its initiative.
According to the British Foreign Office, the legal expert in question would most likely be a prosecutor from the UK Crown Prosecution Service.
However, a Foreign Office spokesman told Ahram Online that if the Egyptians accepted the UK initiative, the prosecutor would not be assigned to them in his official capacity.
"The expert would not play any role or intervene in the Egyptian investigating process," the spokesman said. "He would only advise on filling out forms and filing documents and evidence."
He added that it was "up to the Egyptians" to decide where the legal expert would reside, stressing that the UK government would pay the "vast majority" of the expert's secondment expenses.