Egypt freezes Mubarak assets, forbids travel

Egypt today ordered a freeze on all assets belonging to former President Hosni Mubarak and his family, weeks after asking that foreign assets also be frozen.

Amr Nabil/File/AP Photo
In this Oct. 19, 2010 file photo Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak looks on during a meeting in Cairo. Egyptian state TV says Monday, Feb. 28 that ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his family have been banned from travel abroad and their funds "impounded".

Egypt's public prosecutor today requested a freeze on the assets of former President Hosni Mubarak, his wife, two sons, and their wives. The freeze is a response to suspicions that Mr. Mubarak accrued substantial wealth while president, potentially diverted from the Egyptian government, that he is now storing at home and abroad.

Mr. Mubarak and his family are also banned from leaving the country. Since stepping down Feb. 11, he has been quietly hiding out in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he reportedly owns real estate – in addition to properties in London, New York, and Los Angeles.

"The prosecutor ordered that all of all of the family’s money transfers, real estate, stocks and bonds in companies and banks be sequestered," Bloomberg reported, citing a statement issued today by the public prosecutor. The state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper has reported that the Mubarak family stashed hundreds of millions of dollars in Egyptian banks, despite Mubarak's monthly salary of about $800.

Egypt on Feb. 21 also requested that foreign countries freeze Mubarak's overseas assets, estimated at up to $70 billion, according to the BBC. Mubarak's legal representative has denied that the former president has assets outside Egypt, but prosecutors and anticorruption activists are pushing for an investigation.

Several former Egyptian officials who were close to Mubarak are already being investigated and tried for corruption and fraud, reported Agence France-Presse. Switzerland, which froze Mubarak's assets almost immediately after his resignation, has been quoted in the past as claiming Mubarak had "tens of millions of francs" in Swiss banks.

Under Swiss law, the freeze will last three years while Egypt looks into the sources of Mubarak's wealth. “This gives the Egyptian government sufficient time to launch an investigation,” Daniel Thelesklaf, who heads the Swiss-based International Center for Asset Recovery, told The Christian Science Monitor.

"These investigations take a lot of time," he said. "These people have good lawyers and have well-protected themselves with various layers... To break through all these layers is a complex procedure, and experience shows that this will take some years. The ball is now on the Egyptian side."

For more information on how world leaders are able to horde money abroad unhampered, check out the recent Monitor series "How dictators stash their cash."

Part 1: How dictators stash their cash 101: Qaddafi, Mubarak, and others

Part 2: How dictators stash their cash 101: Swiss freeze Qaddafi assets

Part 3: How dictators stash their cash 101: How can Egypt track stolen assets?

Part 4: How dictators stash their cash 101: Egypt, Libya not alone in losing assets

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