The Laws of Rule


Law, Politics, Podcasts


The People v. Mubarak et al

Feb 12, 2011

Within hours of Mubarak’s departure from power, the Swiss authorities confirmed that they had issued instructions for Swiss banks to look for and freeze Mubarak’s assets. The authorities indicated they have no idea how much may be squirreled away in Swiss accounts. Widely – and wildly – rumoured to be as much as US$ 70 billion, it is in fact more likely to be far less and fairly certain that nobody has a very clear idea of how much, at least just yet. (Update: Swiss officials reported on 13 February that the Egyptian government at present has accounts and trusts in local banks for some 3.8 billion US dollars, with at least a third of that held in so-called custodial accounts, the typical bank instrument used to conceal wealth obtained through embezzlement of public funds).

The list of those covered by the Swiss action includes Mubarak and his wife, their two sons and their wives, as well as Mr Mubarak’s brother-in law. Also included were

– Ahmed Alaa El Din Amin El-Maghrabi, a former minister for housing, services and urban development (arrested 17.02.11 pending investigation)
– Mohamed Zoheir Mohamed Wahid Garana, former tourism minister (arrested 17.02.11 pending investigation)
– Habib Ibrahim El Adli, former interior minister (arrested 17.02.11 pending investigation)
– Rachid Mohamed Rachid, businessman and former trade and industry minister
– Ahmed Ezz, prominent businessman, former secretary NDP (arrested 17.02.11 pending investigation)

The Swiss actions were followed Saturday by reports that Egypt’s prosecutor general had imposed travel bans on al-Adli, former prime minister Ahmed Nazi – both of whom were sacked by Mubarak last week – and Anas el-Fekky, the information minister, who had survived Mubarak’s last gasp cabinet shuffle.

It appears Egyptian prosecutors are preparing to go after allegations of grand corruption in the Mubarak regime. Lawyers had petitioned Egypt’s prosecutor general Tuesday to try Mubarak for allegedly stealing state funds. Lawyer Yousif Masri told Al Jazeera that 40 prominent personalities had signed the petition requesting an investigation by the prosecutor. Al Jazeera English aslo reported that on 4 February “Egypt’s prosecutor-general had barred Rashid Mohammed Rashid, the former trade and industry minister from leaving the country, and had frozen his bank accounts. The same measures was also taken against Habib al-Adli, the former interior minister, and Ahmed Ezz, a businessman.” (which reminds me, wasn’t there a Mohammad Rashid who serviced the PLO’s leadership under Arafat? hmmmmmm…).

Image: Robin Taylor, in honour of Saul Steinberg

On the face of it, someone in the office of the General Prosecutor took the opportunity to assert some prosecutorial discretion. The dismissal of the previous cabinet probably removed the immunity from prosecution for those former cabinet members. Egyptian prosecutors have experience with corruption cases, as the charge was used in the past against those who fell out of favour with the regime. The fact that their list and the Swiss list bear certain similarities indicates they have moved quickly to ensure they get international law enforcement working on the case. But even with the right experience, the case of embezzlement may not be an easy one to make given the kind of business operations of those around Mubarak. “The corruption of the Mubarak family was not stealing from the budget, it was transforming political capital into private capital,” Samer Soliman, a professor of political economy at American University in Cairo told the New York Times.

Meanwhile, protesters have set up a shrine to the approximately 300 people killed during the demonstrations of the past to weeks. Al Jazeera’s James Bays, in Cairo, says that while people are celebrating Mubarak’s departure. there are growing calls for him to be brought to justice. “People say it’s just not  good enough that he’s gone to his villa in Sharm el-Sheikh … And I can’t think of any case in the past where an ousted leader has been able to live peacefully in his country.”

It remains unclear what the military’s Supreme Council, which is now in charge in Egypt, will do with the committee set up by Mubarak to investigate the violence of recent weeks. Far better to set up a judicial inquiry in order to avoid a politicized witch hunt and to make sure all those involved are brought to justice.

Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy Mubarak’s expiry date