Mubarak assets: first clues trickle in to Bern

“Still too early” says Swiss government to say how much money is involved

EU reportedly decides today if it will follow Swiss example

Zurich, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Assets held in Switzerland, now or in the past, by former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and his family and friends may not easily be traced, but details are beginning to surface in Bern, the Swiss Foreign Affairs Department (FAD) told GenevaLunch Tuesday.

The Swiss government announced late Friday 11 February a new ordinance requiring banks and other financial institutions to freeze assets for a group of 12 individuals in the Mubarak entourage.

“It’s still too early to provide more information, for example, the amount of money involved,” FAD spokesperson Jenny Piaget says.

The European Union is reportedly considering Tuesday if it should follow the Swiss example and move to freeze Mubarak’s assets.

The Swiss ordinance requires “persons or institutions that hold or manage assets or who have any knowledge of financial resources that fall within the scope of assets blocked” by the ordinance “must declare this information immediately to the Directorate of International Law (ed. note, part of the foreign ministry).” The declaration must provide the name of the asset-holder, the object itself and the value of assets and financial resources that have been frozen.”

Swiss bankers, others with Mubarak asset information required to alert Bern quickly

The fine for not providing information is CHF20,000 plus a fine of 10 times the value of the object, whether it is bank funds or real estate or other assets.

There has been widespread speculation about the amount of money the former Egyptian president has in Switzerland or elsewhere. The amounts estimated by some sources appear to be exaggerated, in light of the overall amounts of money that have moved between Switzerland and Egypt in recent years.

Egyptian money in Switzerland has fallen since 2005

Swiss National Bank (SNB) figures for 2009 show Swiss banks with liabilities and fiduciary funds worth CHF3.6 billion, but this includes corporate and government accounts, as well as private money. (Ed.note: GenevaLunch incorrectly implied Friday that this money is all Mubarak’s)

The total has steadily fallen in the five past years: CHF5.9b in 2005, CHF6.4b in 2006, CHF6.4b in 2007, CHF4.6b in 2008. “We  have no inkling what caused the decline,” says Walter Meier, spokesperson at the SNB, nor has there been any way to determine how much of this might be linked to Mubarak.

Meier acknowledges that while there are concerns that Mubarak may have had money in Switzerland and moved it, the decline in overall Egyptian money in Switzerland could be due to any of several factors, from fears about UBS in 2008 to the stock market crash or concerns about banking secrecy with discussions over banking secrecy in the past two years.

Trade with Egypt increased by 4 percent in 2009 compared to 2008, but imports fell by 18 percent, but there is no clear link between these figures and Mubarak assets, despite some allegations that he may have hidden money in business transactions.

Swiss exports to Egypt 2009: CHF 656.33m
Swiss imports 2009: CHF 109.31.

The people whose funds are frozen

The dozen whose assets come under the legal blocking obligation in Switzerland are:

Hosni Mubarak
Suzanne Thabet, wife of Hosni Mubarak
Alaa Mubarak, son of Hosni Mubarak
Heidi Rasekh, wife of Alaa Mubarak
Gamal Mubarak, son of Hosni Mubarak
Chadiga el Gammal, wife of Gamal Mubarak
Mounir Thabet, brother of Suzanne Thabet
Ahmed Alaa El Din Amin El-Maghrabi, former minister of housing, urban development and services
Mohamed Zoheir Mohamed Wahid Garana, former tourism minister
Habib Ibrahim El Adli, former interior minister
Ahmed Ezz, former secretary of the National Democratic Party
Rachid Mohamed Rachid, former minister for commerce and the economy

Comments

  1. James Nason says:

    There’s another aspect to the “plundering dictators” story which is often overlooked:
    Very often funds of criminal origin are identified at banks in other countries where “know-your-customer” rules are not as strict as in Switzerland simply because some of the transfers involved a bank in Switzerland which, as required by Swiss law, held detailed documentation not only about the account holder but also about the beneficial owners of the assets and those holding power of attorney over the account.
    The case of the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha was a classic example. The Swiss investigation into Abacha funds at Swiss banks revealed that a substantial proportion of his plundered funds had first been laundered by banks in the US and UK. A subsequent investigation by the UK banking regulator (FSA) in fact revealed that between 1996 and 2000, 23 British banks laundered some USD 1.3 billion of Abacha’s illicit assets. In September 2000 Nigeria’s ambassador to Switzerland, Mr. Ogbe Obande, told Swiss Radio: “I’m happy to say without equivocation that so far Switzerland has given the best cooperation to Nigeria in its quest to recover the looted property stashed in banks across Europe and the Americas.”
    Switzerland remains the only country in the world to have returned Abacha funds to Nigeria and Nigeria remains frustrated at the lack of cooperation from the UK and US. Yet the media continue to give the impression that Switzerland was the only country whose banks accepted Abacha funds.
    James Nason, Swiss Bankers Association, Basel, Switzerland

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