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British efforts to repatriate stolen Egyptian money

January 30, 2014 at 11:28 pm

The British Minister of State in the Home Office, Jeremy Browne, said on Monday that Britain is committed to recovering as much of the money stolen by the Mubarak regime and its associates as possible.

In a press conference during a visit to Cairo with his team, Browne warned that the process would take much time. “There are definite benefits in the short-term, but the big money will take some time to be recovered.”

Browne is heading the British Asset Recovery Taskforce (BART) which was established in September 2012 by the British government.  The aim is to trace assets linked to the Mubarak regime and return them to Egypt.

US news channel, ABC News, reported that US intelligence officials estimate that Mubarak accumulated between $1 billion (£622m) and $5 billion (£3.112b) during his 30-year reign. ABC also reported that other financial experts estimate his accumulated wealth at between $40 billion (£24.896b) and $70 billion (£43.5668b).

However, Browne stressed the importance of the time factor in the process and also said that the law must be respected. “We have the oldest rule of law on the planet,” he said. “The government cannot simply seize an individual’s assets unless we can prove it was gained illegally.”

As a large amount of Mubarak’s money is not located in the UK, Browne also reiterated that the process would be difficult. While Browne confirmed that large sums of money were hidden “in imaginative and complicated ways”, he did not specify how much money was located outside Egypt saying, “We cannot comment on the amount of money held overseas.”

Browne said that a team of experts would be established in Cairo in order to liaise with the Egyptian investigators and the BART team in London. “We are trying to make sure that the information provided by authorities in Egypt is the information we need,” Browne said.

BART was established after a BBC film about the stolen money was broadcasted showing that the UK did not freeze all the assets of persons from the ousted Egyptian regime. Jeremy Rawlins of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service, who is a member of the taskforce, asserted that assets to be frozen must be proved as belonging to the said persons.

He also reiterated that the current position of his country as president of the G8 would prove an invaluable opportunity in encouraging the British government to push for more international action.

Representing the UK Police team in BART, the UK Metropolitan police inspector, Jonathan Benton said: “We hope we can have a global leadership role in asset recovery.”