CAIRO: Egypt may reach an agreement with European countries to extend the freezing of assets belonging to former president Hosni Mubarak, his sons, and Egyptian-Spanish fugitive business tycoon Hussein Salem for the second time, Minister of Justice Mahfouz Saber told Youm7 in an interview published Sunday.
The Swiss Federal Council extended the asset freeze by three years in December 2013 to “allow more time for criminal investigations in Egypt into the origins of the funds,” according to the council website. The assets were immediately frozen in 2011 after Mubarak stepped down Feb. 11, 2011.
An estimated 650 million francs ($664 million) was smuggled out of Egypt during the former President Hosni Mubarak’s era to Switzerland, Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesperson Pierre-Alain Eltschinger told The Cairo Post Nov. 1.
The former president along, his two sons Gamal and Alaa, and Salem were acquitted of wasting public funds by exporting gas to Israel at a below-market price Nov. 29. However, the Egyptian General Attorney Hisham Barakat filed a challenge against the acquittal verdicts Nov. 30 to the Court of Cassation, the final appeals court.
On Dec. 1, a judicial source from the International Sector of the Ministry of Justice told Youm7 that the Mubaraks’ lawyer in Switzerland challenged the freezing of their assets after being acquitted over charges of illicit money gains and profiteering.
However, the Egyptian government requested Wednesday that Switzerland and European Union to continue their freeze of assets, an official from the Egyptian Committee of Reclaiming Smuggled Money who requested anonymity told Youm7. The source added that Egypt submitted the request because the verdicts have been challenged, and Mubarak and his sons are facing now imprisonment over stealing money allocated for the presidential palaces during his regime.
The Swiss government “is aware of press reports on the case of Mr. Mubarak and is examining the situation,” the Foreign Ministry wrote in an email to The Cairo Post, refusing further comment. The Swiss General Attorney office replied to The Cairo Post with a similar response Monday.
Switzerland hosted in November the Third Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR,) which put forward a draft law enabling some Arab countries, including Egypt and Tunisia, to reclaim smuggled money worth $1.8 billion, according to the ministry’s official website.
Egypt co-chaired the forum which was attended by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
The Swiss government drafted in December 2013 a bill regulating its legal procedures for freezing and returning money; the bill is scheduled to be discussed in the 2015 Parliament, according to a Monday press statement from the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Legal expert Ahmed Refaat, Professor of International Law and President of Beni Sueif University said in an interview with Mahmoud al-Werwary if the government reached a settlement or reconciliation with those who are accused of stolen money, the frozen money could be reclaimed.