Egyptian officials mistaken over UK's positions on Mubarak's assets
The UK has no plans to return the frozen assets of Mubarak regime members without satisfying standard British legal procedures, Ahram Online can reveal.
This contradicts an announcement by Egyptian officials that the EU, including the UK, had confirmed it would issue new legislation allowing the automatic return of stolen assets.
“The UK is not aware of any work within the EU to change the legal rules which are followed to return frozen assets,” a well-informed British source told Ahram Online.
Egyptian Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki announced last week that British, Swiss and Spanish ministers had promised him their countries would work to issue new European legislation on the recovery of stolen Egyptian assets.
The minister added that he had been promised the new legislation would be adopted by June.
Mekki quoted the European ministers as saying this legislation would allow EU member countries to return assets owned by former regime officials and figures without final court verdicts confirming the assets were stolen.
“We do not know where the minister got this information from,” said the UK source, adding that there must have been a misunderstanding.
On 21 March 2011, the EU issued a regulation ordering EU member states to freeze the assets of 19 Egyptians, including members of the Mubarak family, on suspicion of pilfering Egyptian public funds.
The UK government has frozen £85 million ($133 million) worth of Egyptian assets since March 2011.
Commenting on the minister's remarks, which had also been confirmed by the Egyptian Public Prosecution Service, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office denied promising to return any frozen assets soon.
“Whilst we do not believe it is necessary to change domestic UK legislation to allow the return of stolen assets to Egypt, there are still legal processes which cannot be circumvented without depriving people of their rights,” an FCO spokesperson told Ahram Online.
The UK government has repeatedly confirmed that these processes can be complex and lengthy, but it remains fully committed to returning stolen assets to the Arab Spring countries.
The spokesperson said the UK’s Asset Recovery Task Force was "created to build on and speed up our efforts to trace assets, gather evidence and ultimately recover those assets which are proven to have been misappropriated.”
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