Sunday, April 10, 2011

Egypt prosecutor alleges schemes by Mubarak family

(Washington Post) - Egypt’s top prosecutor has notified the United States and other governments around the world that former president Hosni Mubarak and his family may have hidden hundreds of billions of dollars worth of cash, gold and other state-owned valuables, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post.

Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud wrote in the document that Mubarak and his sons, Gamal and Alaa, may have violated laws prohibiting the “seizing of public funds and profiteering and abuse of power,” using complex business schemes to divert the assets to offshore companies and personal accounts.

The claims spelled out in the document are the most sweeping to date against Mubarak, a strategic ally of the United States for three decades until he was forced from power in February in the wake of national protests and international pressure. The sum of the assets alleged to be appropriated by the Mubarak family — more than $700 billion — far exceeds earlier estimates and might be wildly exaggerated. Previous figures for the amount allegedly stolen by the Mubaraks range from $1 billion to $70 billion.

The 12-page document, written in Arabic and titled “Request for Judicial Assistance,” is intended to provide the legal basis under civil law to recover assets belonging to the Egyptian people. The copy of the document obtained by The Post indicates it was prepared in February 2011 but does not provide a more precise date. An Egyptian official in Washington said the request was sent to countries where the Mubarak family might maintain assets.

A legal representative has categorically denied to news service reporters the “ill-intentioned rumors” that Mubarak and his family had amassed enormous wealth while in office and hid it abroad.

The document mixes the credible with the questionable. Gamal Mubarak’s widely known role at one of the Arab world’s largest investment funds, EFG Hermes, has long fueled suspicion. But other statements appear to be supported only by hearsay witness testimony, secondhand news accounts, and, in two cases, by what apparently are fraudulent bank documents.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Friday issued a statement saying officials were “vigorously pursuing all leads provided by the Egyptian Government with regard to freezing assets of former Egyptian officials. . . . We are meeting regularly with Egyptian Ministry of Justice officials to investigate any allegations that such assets have been deposited in the United States.”