27 November 2012

Egypt: EU to Return Tunisian, Egyptian Assets

EU ministers agreed to unfreeze and hand back assets of former leaders and aides.

The European Union on Monday, November 26, 2012 announced that it will lift sanctions on Egypt and Tunisia and assist in returning frozen assets to the two countries. The EU did not however say how much money was involved.

The EU's Council of Ministers said it had taken steps to facilitate the return of misappropriated funds to Egyptian and Tunisian authorities now that Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had been replaced by elected governments, the AFP news agency said. The Council said it had adopted new legislation allowing courts in individual EU member States to order the release of frozen assets once controlled by Mubarak, Ben Ali, their aides and family members.

EU Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, said in the statement that the EU will spare no effort to help return the money to the people of these two countries. The Wall Street Journal reported that the new legislative framework will also facilitate the exchange of information between EU States and Tunisian and Egyptian authorities to help in civil asset recovery prosecutions relating to misappropriated funds.

The EU has since January 2011 frozen the assets of 48 Tunisians, including ex-President Ben Ali and 19 Egyptians, including former leader Hosni Mubarak, for misappropriating State assets. The Swiss Foreign Ministry in May 2011 announced that the country had frozen 410 million Swiss Francs (about FCFA 223 billion) deposited by Mubarak and his inner circle, and 60 million Swiss Francs (about FCFA 33 billion) from Ben Ali.

A judge in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, in June 2011 found the former leader and wife guilty of embezzlement and misusing State funds. Judge Touhami sentenced Ben Ali and Leila to 35 years in prison and ordered them to pay a fine of 66 million dollars (about FCFA 33 billion). The couple fled to Saudi Arabia in January 2011 and was tried in absentia. Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison last June after a court convicted him on charges of complicity in the killing of protesters during last year's uprising that forced him from power.

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