Britain receives request to freeze Mubarak assets

Monday, February 14, 2011

LONDON - Britain has received a request from Egypt to freeze the assets of former high-ranking officials and will act accordingly, Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament Monday.

Hague said a formal request from Egypt had been received earlier Monday, and added that Britain would respond, as it had done with similar requests made by other countries recently rocked by popular protests in North Africa and the Middle East.

Although Hague did not specifically mention Hosni Mubarak in connection with the request, the former Egyptian president and his family are known to have major assets in Britain, in property as well as in cash and deposits.

Mubarak is reputed to have amassed a fortune during his nearly 30 years in office, with funds in British and Swiss banks and properties in London, New York and Los Angeles.

“We will of course co-operate with this request, working with EU and international partners as we have done in the case of Tunisia,” said Hague.

“If there is any evidence of illegality or misuse of state assets we will take firm and prompt action.”

But he added that the government could only “direct a freeze of assets” if there was proof of criminal activity or if national security was threatened.

The investigations would be led by the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA), as such assets were likely to have been acquired through corruption, clarified Hague.

They would not be conducted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which is the main financial watchdog in Britain, as had earlier been reported.

Hague said the EU had received a similar request. EU rules on asset-freezing were less restrictive and could be applied “for a wider purpose,” he added.

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