Egypt govt to 'reconcile' with Mubarak-era officials charged with financial impropriety

Karim Hafez , Sunday 13 Jan 2013

Former finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali, former trade minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid reportedly among those to have requested settlement with Egyptian authorities

Mubarak-era Finance Minister Youssef Boutrous Ghaly (L) and Trade Minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid (R)

Egypt's Public Funds Prosecution (PFP) is ready to settle outstanding cases concerning the embezzlement of public funds with a number of Mubarak-era officials, including former finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali and former trade minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid, PFP Attorney-General Mostafa Hussein told Ahram Online on Sunday.

Sentenced in absentia to 30 years in prison by a Cairo court for financial corruption, Boutros-Ghali currently lives freely in the UK despite calls by Interpol for his arrest.

Mubarak's trade minister was also sentenced in absentia to 15 years on graft charges related to the illegal sale of steel-manufacturing licenses.

According to Hussein, prosecutors are ready to discuss reconciliation with those individuals already found guilty of pilfering public funds, including several Mubarak-era cronies – with the exception of those involved in the killing of protestors during Egypt's 2011 Tahrir Square uprising.

"It's important to understand that the prosecution is not a party to any of the disputes," Hussein told Ahram Online. "The reconciliation initiative only came after the government had agreed to settle its disputes with Mubarak-era officials."

He added that no new legislation was needed to carry out the proposed reconciliation process.

"Reconciliation attempts are supported by an investment promotion law drafted in 1997 and a draft law enacted by Egypt's Supreme Military Council in 2011," Hussein explained.

He added that the PFP was "not biased" towards any particular political entity or individual interest, stressing that the agency's primary role was to "protect public funds and the public interest."

The PFP has already agreed to "reconcile" with 20 convicted individuals in exchange for the reimbursement of funds obtained illegally, said Hussein.

He went on to point out that all Mubarak-era figures charged with financial misdealing had asked the PFP to settle their respective financial disputes in exchange for acquittals.

"The reconciliation initiative will certainly benefit the economy," said Hussein. "Through it, the state will be able to return looted funds that are often untraceable."

The PFP recently acquitted or released on bail a number of Mubarak-era officials, including former culture minister Farouk Hosni and former top media official Ossama El-Sheikh, both of whom had been found innocent of pocketing public funds.

Several human rights groups have slammed the 'reconciliation' proposal, which they say violates the rights of the Egyptian public since it stipulates that offenders must return improperly-acquired funds according to those funds' original value – thus ignoring the appreciation of the assets in question since their acquisition.

The government of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has attempted on several occasions to settle pending cases with businessmen charged with illegally acquiring public funds and property during the Mubarak era. These overtures, however, were met with widespread criticism on the part of Egyptian opposition groups.

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