Reconciliation offered to Mubarak regime figures who repay state
CAIRO - An Egyptian government plan to erase charges of illegal enrichment against key figures of the regime of ex-president Hosni Mubarak in return for money would allow them to return to political life, give cash to a struggling economy but possibly fuel resentment among the public.
The government has started implementing the plan by taking into its possession assets worth $619 million from Hussein Salem, a Mubarak associate who escaped to Spain after the uprising.
The prosecution accused Salem of using his ties with Mubarak to amass a fortune. He was one of many businessmen, former government officials and politicians who transferred funds to banks outside Egypt. Egyptian legal entities have been trying to repatriate smuggled funds since Mubarak’s overthrow but to little avail.
Mubarak is suspected of funnelling billions of dollars to foreign banks. His sons are accused of doing the same but Egyptian officials have been unable to trace the money.
The Illicit-Gain Commission, a legal body affiliated to the Justice Ministry and responsible for returning smuggled funds, said it had received 40 requests from Mubarak regime figures for reconciliation, or more specifically a process in which money suspected of being embezzled is returned and charges of illegal enrichment revoked.
“These reconciliations follow the introduction of amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law, which opened the door for reconciliation with those accused of making illicit gains,” said Justice Ministry spokesman Khaled al-Nashar. “There is unanimous agreement inside the commission on the need for making these reconciliations.”
Legal experts said the Justice Ministry resorted to the reconciliations after it was unable to return smuggled funds through the legal system.
The actions could allow for the return of the same people to Egyptian’s political life, experts said.
“Will the people accept this?” leftist politician Hussein Abdel Razik asked. “I am sure the majority of the people are against the return of the figures who spoiled this country’s political life for decades.”
Deteriorating economic conditions, skyrocketing commodity prices and political unrest created an aversion among many Egyptians to the current political situation and longing for Mubarak’s days.
Egypt does not have a law to prevent Mubarak regime figures from political participation and some consider Mubarak-era officials are back on Egypt’s political stage already. A number of the members of the current parliament were members and leaders of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. One parliament member was a Mubarak cabinet minister.
Ahmed Ezz, a steel production mogul and a leader of Mubarak’s party, is establishing his own political party, local media reported. Mubarak’s son, Gamal, attends social events and media reports suggest his return to politics.
Almost five years after the 2011 revolution, Mubarak and some of his ministers, businessmen and party leaders — many of whom were jailed after the revolution — are free. Many of the youths — numbering perhaps in the thousands — who participated in the uprising are, meanwhile, in prison.
Economists said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has to accept reconciliation with Mubarak regime figures accused of illegal enrichment because of the deplorable condition of the country’s economy.
Economist Rashad Abdo said he expects reconciliation with Mubarak figures to bring the treasury close to $20 billion, funds needed to bridge Egypt’s growing budget deficit.
“The budget deficit is close to 320 billion pounds ($36 billion),” Abdo said. “These reconciliations can help the government narrow this deficit and mitigate the effects of the current economic crisis.”