Doing what they did with the pharaoh's artefacts? UK stalling the return of Mubarak's frozen assets to the Egyptian people
British cooperation with Egypt over the recovery of assets stolen by Mubarak regime figures is at its highest level since the January 25 uprising, a well-informed British source has told Ahram Online.
“Priority targets for investigation have been agreed with the Egyptians,” the source said.
Over the last two years, $140 million (more than LE850m) of assets belonging to toppled president Hosni Mubarak, his wife, two sons, their wives and 13 other former Egyptian ministers, businessmen and their wives have been frozen in the UK.
Speaking to Ahram Online, a UK government spokesperson confirmed mutual cooperation on tracing illegal assets had achieved significant progress.
“The UK Asset Recovery Task Force, established by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, has been working for over a year to trace assets stolen from Egypt,” he added.
Since its creation in October 2012, the task force has increased its efforts to trace stolen assets from Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, gathering evidence and bringing cases before the courts.
It is headed by a Home Office minister and has a multi-agency operational team – including 10 investigators from the National Crime Agency and the Metropolitan Police, lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service, and officials from the UK Central Authority for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) and the Treasury Department's Asset Freezing Unit (AFU).
In an attempt to rebuild the UK’s reputation on asset recovery, the task force has been reviewing the UK’s asset recovery legislation and drawing on independent advice to ensure the necessary legal tools are established to repatriate stolen assets.
“A number of priority cases have been identified with the Egyptian authorities, and investigators are in regular contact with Egyptian investigators and prosecutors,” the spokesman confirmed.
“As part of this ongoing dialogue, a team of investigators are visiting their counterparts in Cairo this week,” he added.
Another source said British investigators were tracing possible stolen Egyptian assets outside the UK.
“Enquiries are now extending well beyond the UK. Investigators are checking a lot of financial documents as they untangle complex off-shore financial structures,” he said.
Ahram Online understands that, based on the results of what UK officials call joint investigations with Egyptian authorities, the UK government has managed to get a number of court orders enabling “intrusive financial investigations.”
The UK has said repeatedly it is committed to returning stolen assets to the people of the relevant states and using its G8 presidency to promote multilateral asset recovery efforts.
However, UK officials warn it is not a straight forward process and the repatriation of the stolen monies could take years.