Over LE7 billion frozen in Egyptian assets worldwide, says report

Egypt has around US$1 billion, or LE7 billion, frozen in assets around the world, a report issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) on Monday stated. The report focused on both the amount of assets that have yet to be repatriated to Egypt as well as issues within the repatriation process itself.

The repatriation of money stolen from Egypt either through corruption or embezzlement was one of the key demands of the January 25 revolution in 2011. However, much of that money remains in frozen accounts in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Canada and France, the report said.

There about $750 million frozen in Switzerland and LE85 million frozen in the UK, while the amount remaining in other countries remains undeclared. It is, however, estimated to be at least US$1 billion.

Following a report released by the BBC in 2012, UK Prime Minister David Cameron promised that the money frozen in UK bank accounts would be returned to Egypt, however 18 months later Egypt has yet to see funds repatriated.

Many of the Mubarak-era state officials who faced corruption charges after the revolution made reconciliation deals, whereby they would give a large sum of money to the state in return for dropping the charges.  An example of this is Hussein Salem, a Mubarak-era businessman, who offered half of his LE11 billion fortune in return for the courts dropping his 22-year prison sentence.

According to EIPR, although the reconciliation money is rumored to number in the billions, it has yet to make its way to the greatest victims of corruption, namely to the Egyptians who suffered due to the harsh economic conditions caused by it.

EIPR also reports that in 2012, the General Prosecutor’s office announced it had received over LE9 billion in fines and financial settlements in public funds cases from February 2011 to July 2013. However, the majority of the money was returned to the governmental institutions that embezzled it in the first place, leading to a risk of continuing corruption.

The report states that there is very little transparency when it comes to the allocation of recovered assets from corrupt officials and businessmen from the Mubarak regime. Furthermore, the recovered assets have been entirely handled by the government, which, according to EIPR, could lead to problems, for “if the government is corrupt or is weak in its fight against corruption, [it]… puts the restituted money at risk of being wasted and lost again in the same corruption channels without victims of corruption benefiting from it.”

The only repatriation mechanism for victims of the Mubarak regime is the National Council for the Martyrs’ Families and the Injured of the Revolution, and the organization only focuses on those injured in the January 25 revolution.  In its report, EIPR called for community-based reparation programs that would distribute the money retrieved from frozen assets to the communities that were affected the worst by the corruption of the Mubarak regime.

EIPR believes that the best method to make sure that stolen funds are repatriated successfully is through prolonged community and media pressure upon the Egyptian government and foreign governments to both return frozen assets to Egypt and also ensure the repatriation process is transparent. Ideally, communities would be able to engage with government mechanisms in order to inform them where the funds are most needed.

EIPR condemned the idea of lump sum payments to families who had suffered losses during the revolution, as they are a short-term solution and would have no sustainable impact on Egyptian institutions.

Rather, the EIPR report suggested collective reparation programs in conjunction with individual reparation programs in order to ”restructure the way entire communities are affected by repressive policies.” The collective reparation program would ideally target communities that suffer economically, which would be identified by a “truth commission.”

According to EIPR, the benefits of such a system would be that more victims would be both compensated and acknowledged. They write that often, “only certain victims [become] fully part of the narrative of reconciliation. The suffering of many living victims is denied recognition or is relegated to a lesser level of significance because their suffering is seen as politically problematic or ambiguous.”

EIPR based this program off of examples in other countries where funds had been stolen by corrupt governments. In particular, they found that the Moroccan approach of a truth commission identifying regions where people were victims of political corruption was the most effective. However, they emphasized that this type of reparation would only be possible with sustained communal and media pressure on the government.  

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