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Mubarak Used Last 18 Days To Transfer His Multi-Billion Fortune

London, Feb 13 : Ousted  Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, who  is accused of amassing a fortune of £40 billion during his 30 years in power, used the last 18 days of uprising to transfer his
PTI February 13, 2011 20:44 IST
PTI
London, Feb 13 : Ousted  Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, who  is accused of amassing a fortune of £40 billion during his 30 years in power, used the last 18 days of uprising to transfer his billions to unknown accounts overseas, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

The report says, his wealth was tied up in foreign banks, investments, bullion and properties in London, New York, Paris and Beverly Hills.

Knowing that the writing on the wall was clear, Mubarak is understood to have attempted to place his assets out of reach of potential investigators, the report said.

On Friday night Swiss authorities announced they were freezing any assets Mubarak and his family may hold in the country's banks while pressure was growing for the UK to do the same. Mr Mubarak has strong connections to London and it is thought many millions of pounds are stashed in the UK.

But a senior Western intelligence source claimed that Mubarak had begun moving his fortune in recent weeks.

"We're aware of some urgent conversations within the Mubarak family about how to save these assets," said the source, "And we think their financial advisers have moved some of the money around. If he had real money in Zurich, it may be gone by now."

The revelation came as the ruling military council, which took power as Mubarak stepped down on Friday, confirmed its pledge eventually to hand power to an elected civilian government, although it did not set a date.

It also reassured allies that Egypt will abide by its peace treaty with Israel, as it outlined the first cautious steps in a promised transition to elections and "to build a democratic free nation".

Meanwhile, demands were growing among protesters in Cairo for  Mubarak to be put on trial for corruption.

Mubarak  was at his family villa in the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh. There were unconfirmed reports that he was effectively under house arrest, as the focus of protesters moved from toppling the hated ruler to seizing his fortune, although the army's ruling council said  Mubarak was beingn treated with due respect.

During the protests last week, former deputy foreign minister Ibrahim Yousri and 20 lawyers petitioned Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, Egypt's prosecutor general, to put Mr Mubarak and his family on trial for stealing state wealth.

Crowds in Tahrir Square were hotly debating what to do with the disgraced former president. Manar Louay, 16, a student, said: "I don't think they should put him on trial - he did keep our country out of wars. But they should take his money, it is not his."

Mohamed El Beblawy, 60, a driver, said: "Not only should Mubarak be prosecuted, all the other thieves should be as well."

Fatma Samy Ahmed, 50, who was part of the clean-up operation, said: "He should be executed like Saddam Hussein. Half of the population lived in poverty, while Mubarak and those around him lived in heaven."

The intelligence source suggested that 82-year-old Mubarak may have learnt the lesson of his fellow dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the former president of Tunisia, who was forced with his family into a hasty exile in Saudi Arabia while Swiss authorities froze the family's bank accounts.

A US official told The Sunday Telegraph: "There's no doubt that there will have been some frantic financial activity behind the scenes. They can lose the homes and some of the bank accounts, but they will have wanted to get the gold bars and other investments to safe quarters."

The Mubaraks are understood to have wanted to shift assets to Gulf states where they have considerable investments already – and, crucially, friendly relations. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have frequently been mentioned as likely final destinations for Mubarak and possibly his family.

The UK Treasury said it would have the power to seize Mubarak's British assets if Egypt made a formal request - and no order had yet been made.

But Lord Malloch-Brown, a former Labour foreign minister and former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, told The Sunday Telegraph: "When people are forced out of office, if they have money way beyond what they should have earned, then a country like Britain should freeze those assets pending a court action by the new government.

"Given his and his family's strong links to the UK, it is reasonable to assume at least some of his assets are here."

Reports emanating from Egypt claim that Mubarak had accounts with the Swiss bank UBS as well as with HBOS, now part of Lloyds Banking Group, which is 41 per cent owned by the British Government. But it is understood that Lloyds bank officials have so far found no evidence Mubarak had secret accounts with them.

Quite how much Mubarak has stashed away - and where he has hidden that fortune - in the past 30 years is open to speculation. His 69-year-old wife Suzanne Mubarak - known in some circles as the Marie Antoinette of Egypt - is half-Welsh while it is claimed the couple's two sons Gamal and Alaa may even have British passports.

Intelligence sources indicate that the Mubarak fortune may be most easily traced via the business dealings of Gamal Mubarak, 47.

He once lived in a six-storey house in Belgravia in central London and worked in banking before setting up an investment and consulting firm in London. He resigned as a director of the company 10 years ago.

The president made his two sons the "go to" men for any companies that sought to do business in Egypt.

Kefaya, an opposition coalition that emerged before the 2005 elections to oppose the then president and his plans to transfer power to Gamal, released a lengthy investigation into nepotism, corruption and abuse of power by the ex-president and his two sons.

It said it was routine for businesses to be required to hand a cut – between 20 to 50 per cent - to Gamal or Alaa simply to set up shop. Favoured entrepreneurs who worked with the brothers were given virtual monopolies in return.

Arwa Hassan, a Middle East specialist for the anti-corruption group Transparency International, said Gamal appeared to be at the centre of the Mubarak family's finances. Miss Hassan said: "It was really common for Gamal Mubarak to approach a successful business and say, make me a partner in your business. I've heard this from various sources. I don't think it was a secret."