x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Egypt's asset freeze request still pending

The UAE has yet to comply with a request from Egypt to freeze assets belonging to Hosni Mubarak, the country's long-standing president who was forced to step down earlier this month after hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest.

Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak - the UAE is still to respond to a request to freeze his assets. AFP PHOTO / DIMA KOROTAYEV
Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak - the UAE is still to respond to a request to freeze his assets. AFP PHOTO / DIMA KOROTAYEV

Egypt's request to the UAE Government to freeze the assets and bank accounts of the former president Hosni Mubarak and his entourage is still pending, an Egyptian official says.

Egypt's interim government made the request to the UAE among several other nations several weeks ago, said Tamer Mansour, the Egyptian ambassador to the UAE.

"This [request] was sent out to several countries, Arabic and European, not just to the UAE," Mr Mansour said. "We sent a request to the UAE authorities a few weeks ago but still didn't get a response yet."

He said he hoped the request would be granted, as the UAE "has always been co-operative in the past".

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Mr Mansour said it would take a while to find the accounts in question, identify which names they were under and to whom they actually belonged, and for the freeze order to be passed down.

The disclosure of the request comes as countries around the world freeze the assets of the ousted presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, as well as those of Libya's Col Muammar Qaddafi, who is waging a bloody battle to keep control of the country.

The UAE has said it would comply with a UN resolution to freeze all of the assets of Col Qaddafi when the order comes through to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Switzerland, the US, UK, Canada and Australia have already begun moving to freeze the assets and the EU was meeting yesterday to fast-track its own response to the escalating bloodshed in Libya.

The turmoil in the region is setting the scene for a global search for hidden billions of dollars of investments and assets allegedly secreted across the world by the former presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, and by the family of Col Qaddafi.

Libya's leader, his associates and family are thought to have a net worth in the tens of billions of dollars. They control the economy of the country and its vast oil reserves.

It was reported that Saif al Islam Qaddafi, a son of the Libyan leader, owns a home in London worth £10 million (Dh59.6m).

The actions across the world to freeze assets are a precautionary measure to prevent any of these people from transferring funds into other jurisdictions, said Ralph Stobwasser, an investigator at the consultancy Control Risks.

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"Until new governments emerge in Tunisia and Egypt, or the International Criminal Court begins a case against Qaddafi, there won't be entities to actually initiate the search for assets," Mr Stobwasser said.

"It will take a couple of months or more before anyone actually takes action to find the assets of former rulers."

Despite the greater connectedness of the world's economies and more disclosure requirements in places such as Switzerland, it has actually become easier to hide assets, Mr Stobwasser added.

If the target of an asset search has hidden his ownership in layer upon layer of shell companies in jurisdictions with no disclosure or weak disclosure laws, then it becomes extremely difficult to track such assets.

"To some degree, you need co-operation of local law enforcement and state prosecution to get the full picture," Mr Stobwasser said.

 

bhope@thenational.ae