Cairo seeks to cut Brotherhood funding

The seizure of Brotherhood funds was being framed as a security measure that would hamper the group’s ability to support terrorist attacks.
Sunday 30/09/2018
A file picture shows a man walking past graffiti depicting ousted Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi (R) and the Deputy Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Khairat el-Shater (C)  in Cairo. (Reuters)
Money trail. A file picture shows a man walking past graffiti depicting ousted Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi (R) and the Deputy Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Khairat el-Shater (C) in Cairo. (Reuters)

CAIRO - An Egyptian judicial panel’s decision to confiscate money and property of hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood businessmen will end the group’s domestic operations and deliver much-needed funds to the Egyptian treasury, experts said.

“This decision is long overdue but it is very important because it will make it impossible for the Brotherhood to finance any terrorist activities in the future,” said Gehad Auda, a political science professor at Helwan University. “Ending terrorism funding is an important step on the road to ending terrorism.”

An independent judicial panel, formed in 2013, formally decided to appropriate the money and property of 1,589 Brotherhood businessmen and figures. They include ousted Islamist Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie, both in jail facing a wide range of charges, including espionage, murder and incitement.

Many Egyptian businessmen who have proven ties to the Brotherhood are also on the panel’s list, with analysts expecting this to have a clear effect on sectors ranging from retail and trade to health care and education. The final list includes 118 companies, 1,133 charities, 104 schools, 39 hospitals and 62 news sites and channels.

The Egyptian parliament enacted a law in April for the confiscation of the funds of terrorists and terrorist groups. Egypt designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist entity in December 2013, allowing for a crackdown on the organisation.

The judicial committee tasked with seizing the Brotherhood money and properties said, in a statement, it had received information that senior members of the group, most of whom fled to Turkey and Qatar, were providing domestic support to the outlawed group.

The Brotherhood, the panel added, had provided funds and logistical support each month to various outlawed militias for years, allowing them to carry out violent activities and destabilise Egyptian security.

Egypt has been cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood since an army-backed popular uprising brought Morsi’s regime down in July 2013. The crackdown landed hundreds of Brotherhood members in jail and included the closure of dozens of Brotherhood offices and affiliated institutions.

The clampdown paralysed the political branch of the Brotherhood but Cairo said terrorist groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood have been attacking state institutions and police and security officers.

The seizure of Brotherhood funds was being framed as a security measure that would hamper the group’s ability to support terrorist attacks, experts said.

“Clamping down on funding is the main problem that any security agency faces as it tries to end the activities of terrorist organisations,” said Khaled Okasha, a member of the Supreme Anti-Terrorism Council, an advisory body to the Egyptian presidency. “Egypt overlooked the financing of the Brotherhood as it cracked down on the organisation in the past five years, which was why its terrorist activities didn’t stop.”

The Brotherhood built its economic empire over decades, sometimes by raising funds for disenfranchised Muslims, including in the Palestinian territories, Bosnia and Chechnya. The group covered up the money it received through money-laundering operations, particularly involving the education sector or the foreign exchange market, government officials said.

The judicial panel did not formally estimate the value of the properties or the money confiscated but observers estimated them at more than $3.5 billion.

To conceal its business activities, the Brotherhood usually worked with non-Brotherhood businessmen and traders. The Islamist movement also made money from receiving a portion of the monthly incomes of hundreds of thousands of its members and diehard supporters.

The confiscated funds are expected to be transferred to a state treasury needing money to finance Egypt’s development plans. Egypt has been suffering a liquidity crisis for several years because of a drop in revenues from major sources, such as tourism.

Even if the Brotherhood is cut off from its money in Egypt, the organisation has regional sponsors and branches.

“This is why the government needs to take its campaign for ending the financing of the group to an international level,” said Islamist researcher Munir Adeeb. “We have to ask friendly governments to take similar moves by seizing the money of Brotherhood branches in their countries and watch out for funding coming for local Brotherhood militias from regional sponsor states.”

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