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Political difference in UK over freezing Mubarak's assets

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Feb 14, IRNA -- Differences have emerged between the British government and the opposition Labour Party in following the example of Switzerland in acting immediately to seize the assets of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Conservative Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt has insisted that the British government is waiting for any request from Egypt to freeze the accounts and investments of Mubarak’s family, estimated to be at least £1.5 billion in the UK.

Burt accepted that one of the key factors in both Tunisia and Egypt is the significant degree of corruption where rulers have “systematically appeared to take large sums of money” and the public now know about this in a way in which they did not in the past.

“There has to be a request made for any of this action to take place,” he told BBC radio on Sunday. “But so far that’s not been a request made and therefore it’s not possible to speculate,” he said when asked if Britain would follow Switzerland.

But former Labour foreign office minister and former deputy general secretary of the United Nations Lord Malloch-Brown called for immediate action.

'I think it would be a very prudent thing to do to freeze suspicious accounts here because it will take a new government quite a while to mount some kind of legal claim on them,' Malloch-Brown said.

'It would be a real pity if, when they did, the money had gone. I think it would be great for the reputation for the City of London if those accounts were frozen now,' he warned.

The director of Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, Richard Alderman, has indicated that they were already tracking the assets of Mubarak as well as deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

'The public would expect us to be looking for some of this money if we became aware of it, and to try to repatriate it for the benefit of the people of those countries,' Alderman told The Sunday Times.

Reports have estimated that the wealth of Mubarak’s family could be worth £40 billion worldwide, with much tied held in British and Swiss banks or tied up in property in London, Paris, New York, Dubai and Egypt’s Red Sea resorts.

His wife, Suzanne, is half-Welsh and his son, Gamal, lived and worked in London, during which he established an investment company, Medinvest Associates, in 1996.

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