Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, February 2011
Seize Money Stolen by Mubarak and Return it to Egypt
By Paul Dunk
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, February 15, 2011
Governments and international banks should seize Hosni Mubarak's assets and hold them in escrow to be returned to the people of Egypt, an international corruption watchdog said Friday.
"What is happening in Egypt today shows there is a major problem with a
lack of transparency," said Huguette Labelle, the chair of Transparency
International, an influential international corruption watchdog with ties to
His financial assets are believed to be spread across the globe, and as the motions to replace him in a democratic Egypt lurch into action, so too has the international movement to retrieve any financial assets he may have absconded with.
"When there is a dictator who appears to have acquired much more wealth than he would warrant as a salary of a head of a corporation or country, they should investigate immediately because you don't know where those assets are parked," Labelle said.
Labelle spent 19 years in deputy ministerial positions in the Canadian civil service across a variety of departments before chairing the international lobby group in 2005. She is also chancellor of the University of Ottawa and is a Companion to the Order of Canada.
She spent seven years presiding over CIDA, the Canadian International
Development Agency, and now calls for international governments and banking
institutions to investigate Mubarak's assets and seize any illegitimate
Reports this week estimated that Mubarak's family wealth could be in excess of $40 billion — a figure that would put him just behind Berkshire Hathaway head Warren Buffett, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Carlos Slim Helu, the world's richest man.
Those figures were based on numerous estimates, as finding an exact figure of how many funds the deposed leader could even theoretically have access to is as yet unknown. But it's estimated that 40 per cent of Egypt's 80 million people live on less than $2 a day.
A report by think tank Global Financial Integrity released in January found that Egypt is losing more than $6 billion US a year — more than $57.2 billion US between 2000 and 2008 — to illicit financial activities and official government corruption.
"Egypt, like many countries in the Middle East, is a business," said Avner Mandelman, a money manager and director at Venator Capital Management Ltd. "And it's currently a company being restructured.
"All the money that flows into the country is passing many hands," he
said. "And those hands are sticky."
In recent months, the country — which is shedding its reputation as a haven for hiding assets — has also frozen assets belonging to Tunisia's former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, as well as those of Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo.
Labelle welcomes moves like that and said it is incumbent upon other
governments and banks to follow suit.
"After elections, that first government should create a commission of inquiry to investigate those who have assets that are beyond what one would expect."
Mandelman expects it would not be difficult, in time, to track most of those funds. "Big money has a weight and a magnetic pull all its own," he said. "You just have to follow the money."
A spokesperson from TD Bank declined to comment when asked whether the bank is considering actions similar to those taken in Switzerland to seize assets. "Because of privacy laws and policies we do not comment on, or confirm our clients," Mohammed Nakhooda said.
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