Gamal Mubarak (left), former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak (middle) and Alaa Mubarak (right) - File photo
CAIRO - 6 September 2017: Swiss authorities have ceased legal mutual aid with Egypt over charges of money laundering or of organized crime in Switzerland during former President Hosni Mubarak’s era, Egypt’s state-owned news agency MENA confirmed a statement from Switzerland in Cairo on Wednesday.
“The Swiss judicial authorities have notified the Egyptian Attorney General that the mutual legal assistance procedures, which were opened in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring, had been closed with no concrete evidence,” the statement says, noting that the legal assistance is a part of the continuous investigations held by the both countries “independently.”
Since 2011, Swiss authorities conducted investigations with 14 suspects along with Mubarak and froze an estimated 650 million francs ($ 664 million) smuggled out of Egypt during Mubarak’s era to Switzerland. However, in December 2016, Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber announced in a press conference in Cairo that charges of money laundering and organized crime were dropped against a number of suspects, and a total of 180 million Swiss francs ($175.52 million) were unfrozen and returned to their owners.
The Swiss statement emphasized that Switzerland has yet to take a final decision concerning former President Hosni Mubarak’s frozen assets in Swiss banks, which was frozen upon request by the Egyptian government since the 2011 uprising. $ 340 million will remain frozen within the criminal proceedings.
Mubarak is not suspect
On March 2017, the Swiss Attorney General Office (AGO) told Egypt Today via mail that Mubarak is not one of the suspects that are being investigated with charges of money laundering or of organized crime in Switzerland.
“The former President Mubarak is not a suspect in the Swiss criminal proceedings related to the ‘Arab Spring’,” said the AGO, adding that Mubarak’s name is found in the list of the politically exposed persons whose assets have been ordered to be frozen by the Swiss Federal Council.
After dropping charges against a number of suspects in December 2016, the AGO was conducting investigations on six people, including Mubarak’s two sons Alaa and Gamal, the AGO said in the e-mail, adding that the current amount of money frozen with the criminal proceedings is around CHF 430 million (around $426.3 million).
The AGO added that the criminal proceedings are being conducted based on suspicions of money laundering per article 305bis of the Swiss Criminal Code.
In August 2016, the Egyptian national Committee – tasked to restore the smuggled money abroad - submitted to the Swiss Federation Court an appeal against the AGO’s June 2015 decision of halting investigations into charges of organized crime against Mubarak, his sons, and other associates; the Swiss Federal Supreme Court accepted the appeal, Egyptian local newspapers reported.
In March Egypt Today contacted the Egyptian Attorney General Nabil Sadek, the chairperson of the national committee, and met with Attorney General Assistant Hesham Samir to confirm if Mubarak’s name was lifted; but they declined to comment.
A former member of the committee, who spoke on a condition of anonymity due the sensitivity of the issue, told Egypt Today that Mubarak was one of the individuals who were charged with money laundering and organized crimes, adding that Mubarak’s name was lifted.
The source added that Mubarak’s name was lifted because the Egyptian government failed to prove that the money frozen in Switzerland were illicit gains. However, Mubarak’s sons are still on the list because they face other charges of manipulating the Egyptian stock market and of money laundering by transforming money from a bank in Egypt to Cyprus, the source continued.
The former president, along with his two sons, already served a term of three years in prison over charges of Presidential Palaces embezzlement and wasting public money in 2016. Egypt’s judicial officials told Youm7 on July 18, 2016 that Swiss authorities rejected a request from the Egyptian national committee, to send back Mubarak’s frozen assets after he was convicted in this charge. The officials added that Switzerland stipulated that Egyptian authorities should prove if there was a link between the presidential palaces money to that which was frozen in Swiss banks.
The individuals, whose assets were unblocked in Switzerland, include business tycoon Hussein Salem and fugitive former Minister of Trade and Industry Rashid Mohamed Rashid, who reached reconciliation with the Egyptian government over the smuggled money, per the new Reconciliation Law.
Way out for restoring money
In October 2015, The Egyptian government passed new amendments to the Reconciliation Law, by which the government would receive smuggled money in exchange for dropping the charges defendants face.
Mubarak and his sons are still facing two other charges; they are charged with receiving illegal gifts from al-Ahram Sate Media institution. On August 1, al-Shorouk newspaper reported that Mubarak’s lawyer Fareed al-Dib claimed his clients and his family have paid back LE 18 million to the state as per the law. The second charge of profiteering is being investigated by the Illicit Gains Authority.
In case the Egypt government did not send a request to the Swiss authorities to maintain freezing Mubarak’s assets by February 2018, the assets could be unfrozen and may revert to Mubarak. On Decembeer 9, 2016, the Federal Council extended the freezing of Mubarak’s assets by one year, set to expire at the beginning of 2018.
On March 4, Mubarak was acquitted of charges of killing peaceful protesters in the January 2011 uprising; his unchallengeable acquittal has no influence on the criminal proceedings being conducted by Switzerland, according to a previous e-mail by the AGO to Egypt Today on March 10.
“There is in fact no known link between acts of complicity in the deaths of the protesters and the funds blocked in Switzerland in connection with proceedings being conducted for suspected money laundering…and participation and /or support a criminal organization,” the Swiss attorney general’s e-mail says.