Britain’s Minister for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said that the government is committed to returning funds embezzled from Egypt during the ousted regime. Alistair Burt insisted that this is part of the British government’s response to the Arab Spring, and pointed out that his officials are liaising with their counterparts in Cairo to identify which funds are to be returned.
In a press statement Mr. Burt expressed Britain’s complete understanding of the strength of the Egyptians’ feelings about this issue. “We are cooperating with the Egyptian authorities to identify and seize the money that the Egyptian courts have determined to be stolen,” he said.
It is necessary to follow legal procedures to collect and return stolen funds. “The UK cannot simply take money from someone and return it to a foreign state, said Mr. Burt. “There has to be a criminal conviction and a confiscation order for such funds. As such, we work very closely with the Egyptian authorities to help them understand the required legal procedures and how to follow them efficiently and effectively, including contacts between experts in the United Kingdom and Egypt, the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the exchange of intelligence information with the Egyptian Financial Intelligence Unit, and an increase in cooperation between the police in the two countries on the exchange of information.”
The minister denied that Britain was intentionally slow in the freezing of Egyptian funds which have been embezzled: “We reject any claim that the United Kingdom could have taken faster action to freeze funds. The British government is not able to issue a restraining order based only on suspicions; there is a need for the presence of strong evidence. So we led the efforts to impose a decision to freeze the funds in all of the European Union, and to give Egypt time to complete the criminal proceedings. This took time to be approved by all the 27 EU countries, as it is a necessity.”