The counter narcotics and organised crime sector of the Egyptian Ministry of Interior has announced the seizure of 3.4 billion Egyptian pounds ($178 million) from money laundering crimes through drug trafficking over the course of a year.
Though the seizure may appear to be a victory for authorities, human rights observers have, in the past, pointed to a number of cases in which accusations of money laundering have been politically motivated.
In October 2016 military general turned President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi came under fire when he appointed his brother as head of a government body to combat terrorist financing and money laundering, which exercised control over bank accounts of individuals or companies suspected of money laundering or supporting terrorism. The new unit was granted power to access bank accounts, freeze them and seize funds.
Al-Sisi’s brother, Ahmed Saeed Hussain Khalil, is a senior judge and was at the time deputy head of the Court of Cassation, which raised serious questions over nepotism and the independence of the judiciary, given their family connection.
Rights organisations feared Ahmed’s appointment would be used to target members of the opposition in Egypt as part of the government’s widening crackdown which has jailed thousands of political prisoners and sentenced an unprecedented number to death.
Egyptian authorities regularly cast opponents of the regime as terrorists and commit severe human rights violations under this broad definition.
Ahead of an investigation by the British government into whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood was a terrorist organisation, Egyptian authorities allegedly gave Britain a document containing evidence the Muslim Brotherhood was conducting money laundering operations in America, Turkey and Latin America as a means to support terrorists in Syria and Libya.
As Egyptian authorities ramped up repression against human rights workers and NGOs, several organisations were summoned and questioned about their financial activities. Government agencies compiled a report accusing more than 20 organisations of tax evasion and money laundering.
Earlier this year the General Administration of Public Money Investigations allegedly uncovered that 50 million Egyptian pounds ($2.8 million) had been laundered through the construction of unlicensed buildings in Greater Cairo.
However, critics say the government is conducting a campaign to demolish unlicensed buildings on farmland that have been constructed by families who cannot afford the rent in cities like Cairo without providing a more affordable alternative.
People who do build on agricultural land face prison and a hefty fine.
In February Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General Sheikh Saud Bin Abdullah told a conference in Cairo that money laundering and terror financing are at the “forefront of global criminal phenomena” and demanded greater cooperation between states and organisations to combat these two crimes.
Egypt and its ally Saudi Arabia advocate labelling the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.