Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mubarak Cronies Find Comfort in Exile

Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif (L), former Interior Minister Habib Al Adli (C) and former Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali (R).
By Cam McGrath

"CAIRO, Apr 1, 2012 (IPS) - Wanted members of the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak remain at large more than a year since he was ousted, and their illicit wealth lies safely beyond the reach of prosecutors.

Under Mubarak, top officials and businessmen with close ties to the regime seized public assets and acquired monopolies in strategic commodities. Prosecutors say the elite group grew rich on the spoils of crony capitalism, including sweetheart privatisation deals, stock market manipulation and preferential treatment in land contracts.

Following the uprising that ended Mubarak’s 30-year rule, Egyptian prosecutors imposed travel bans and froze the assets of regime leaders and business associates. Foreign ministry officials also contacted world governments to request that they identify and freeze assets belonging to individuals suspected of corruption.

Yet hundreds of senior Mubarak regime figures remain at large, many living comfortably in exile on ill- gotten gains, claim activists. Some accused of graft and malfeasance have yet to be charged, while others have international warrants for their arrest.

One former official accused of engineering some of the most chequered privatisations in Egypt’s history holds a top position at a prestigious international financial institution.

"Mubarak’s associates aren’t exactly in hiding," says Amir Marghany, a corporate lawyer and anti- corruption expert. "We know where many of them live, work and spend their time. But it seems nobody is really trying to catch them."

In January, Egyptians were infuriated to learn that Youssef Boutros-Ghali, Mubarak’s former finance minister, had been spotted attending a public forum at the London School of Economics (LSE). The university’s security staff escorted the fugitive official out of the lecture hall after an Egyptian activist in the audience called him out publicly.

Boutros-Ghali, seen by many as the public face of a regime that enriched itself at the expense of the poor, fled to Britain shortly after Mubarak was toppled. A Cairo court sentenced him in absentia to 30 years imprisonment for abuse of power and squandering public funds. His name is on an Interpol watch list....."

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