Mubarak’s acquittal of corruption charges is bound to have a negative impact on the Egyptian economy in general and will hinder the retrieval of money smuggled abroad in particular, financial experts have argued.
The fact that neither Mubarak nor his sons were found guilty of corruption gives an impression that Egypt’s anti-corruption laws are not deterrent enough, said economist Ahmed Salim told the London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
“This is expected to makes investors apprehensive of starting any business in Egypt in the future,” he said.
The acquittal, Salim added, means that all the money Mubarak and his sons smuggled abroad is now their own and the Egyptian government will not have the right to retrieve them.
“In addition, the countries in whose banks the money is deposited can file money laundering charges against the Mubarak family and will then confiscate the money.”
Hossam Eissa, professor of international law and member of the Legal Committee for the Retrieval of Egyptian Money Abroad, said Mubarak’s lawyers will use the verdict to lift the block some countries imposed on the former president’s accounts.
“Keeping the blockade and getting the money were contingent upon a verdict that finds Mubarak guilty of financial corruption,” he said.
Eissa held the Egyptian authorities accountable for not taking serious steps towards retrieving the money.
“There was no real political will to get the money back and the freezing of some accounts was the result of pressure put on foreign governments by Egyptian communities and non-governmental organizations.”
According to a prominent banking expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the verdict that came in favor of Mubarak is an implicit permission for foreign governments to unfreeze the accounts and return the money to its owners.
“It is also expected that the prosecutor general will unfreeze Mubarak’s accounts inside Egypt since he was not found guilty of corruption,” he said. “The same will apply to all members of the former regime who are acquitted of the same charges.”
For banking expert Ahmed Adam, a change in the verdict is the only way the money can be returned.
“If after the verdict is appealed, Mubarak is found guilty then there is hope,” he said.
It is also important, he added, to put pressure on the various channels through which this money was taken outside the country.
“Some amounts were transferred through banks and others through business deals with a number of investors and businessmen. Tracking those down will make it easier.”
Assem al-Gohary, head of Egypt’s Illicit Gains Authority who also heads a judicial committee tasked with the retrieval of smuggled money, said in mid-April that Egypt had filed a lawsuit against the British treasury to obligate it to cooperate with Cairo in recovery of frozen assets in England.
In May, a Swiss court issued an un-appealable verdict to include Egypt as one of the plaintiffs in a case a Swiss criminal court is pursuing over Mubarak and nine of his aids smuggling money illegally.
One third of the $1.5 trillion of assets held offshore by Middle Eastern and African elites is in Switzerland, according to research firm MyPrivateBanking in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)