4 Sep 2012

Muburak-era assets in UK not yet frozen

5:14 am on 4 September 2012

The British government is failing in its commitment to freeze the assets of Egypt's former rulers. The BBC reports property and companies linked to key figures in the Mubarak era are unaffected by sanctions.

Egyptian officials accuse Britain of hiding stolen wealth and breaching international anti-corruption accords. But the government says it is doing as much as it can to trace the funds.

President Hosni Mubarak stopped down from office on 11 February last year.

Three days later, Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament that Britain would co-operate with an Egyptian government request to freeze the assets of several former officials.

But it was a further 37 days before Britain and other EU states applied the sanctions - a period when Egypt says the accused officials were able to move their money elsewhere.

About £85 million in assets belonging to Mr Mubarak, his wife, two sons, and 15 other Egyptians are now been frozen in Britain.

But an investigation by the BBC found assets such as companies and property that had apparently been missed.

This approach contrasts with that of Switzerland which froze the assets of Mubarak and his associates within half an hour of his resignation last year. The total amount frozen there is about CHF700m (£470 million).

Egypt's new Legal Affairs Minister Mohamed Mahsoub said: "The UK is one of the worst countries when it comes to tracing and freezing Egyptian assets."

But he said Egypt itself, where elements of the old regime are still influential, had also failed to investigate adequately.