Pressure mounts over frozen Mubarak funds

The dismissal of the case against Mubarak sparked protests in Egypt Keystone

This content was published on December 4, 2014 minutes and agencies

The political and legal predicament surrounding the Swiss move to freeze funds belonging to ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has been complicated further after an Egyptian court dismissed murder and corruption charges against the former leader last week.

“The judgment is not helpful,” Gretta Fenner, corruption expert and director at the Basel Institute on Governance, told the Swiss News Agency. It will now be more difficult to prove that the money belonging to the Mubarak clan was illegally obtained, she said.

The Swiss government froze some CHF700 million ($716 million) in assets in 2011, following the collapse of the regime presided over by Mubarak. The money was believed to have been stashed in Swiss banks by Mubarak and his entourage.

The Swiss government’s ultimate goal was to return the money to the Egyptian government, assuming it could be proven that the money was stolen, according to previous statements from the Swiss foreign ministry.

Saturday’s verdict in Cairo said the case against Mubarak was inadmissible on a technicality. But it also described the uprising as part of a joint, region-wide “American-Hebrew” plot to undermine Arab countries for Israel’s benefit.

“Legally flawed”

The ruling also acquitted Mubarak’s security chief and six top police commanders of charges connected to the killing of protesters during the popular uprising against his 29-year rule.

Mubarak and his two sons – businessman Alaa and one-time heir apparent Gamal – were acquitted of corruption charges in the same case. Egypt’s top prosecutor said on Tuesday that the ruling dismissing the murder case was “legally flawed” and that he intended to appeal it.

Fenner said she feared an outcome similar to that of the funds belonging to the Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. In that case, the Swiss had to hand over CHF7.7 million of assets confiscated from Mobutu to his family, after legal proceedings brought by the Democratic Republic of Congo against the family were dropped.

Switzerland now has two main options in the Mubarak case, according to Fenner. One is for the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office to push ahead with the money-laundering lawsuit against the Mubarak clan, in which case they would have to prove in court that the money was procured illegally.

The other option is to declare the assets the proceeds of organised crime. The advantage of this route is that the burden of proof would then lie with Mubarak’s legal team to show that his fortune was legally earned, Fenner said.

Either way, Switzerland is placed in a delicate political situation, said Fenner, because the decisions could be interpreted as a criticism of the Egyptian legal system.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the foreign ministry both declined to comment on the latest developments in Mubarak’s case. 

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