Jack Shenker writes for the Guardian:
Britain has allowed key members of Egypt's toppled dictatorship to retain millions of pounds of suspected property and business assets in the UK, potentially violating a globally-agreed set of sanctions.
The situation has led to accusations that ministers are more interested in preserving the City of London's cosy relationship with the Arab financial sector than in securing justice.
Hosni Mubarak, the ousted former president, was sentenced to life in jail in June. A six-month investigation, conducted by BBC Arabic and released in conjunction with the Guardian and al-Hayat, a pan-Arab newspaper, has identified many valuable assets linked to his family and their associates that have not been frozen.
These include luxury houses in Chelsea and Knightsbridge and companies registered in central London. One member of Mubarak's inner circle has even been permitted to set up a UK-based business in recent months, despite being named on a British Treasury sanctions list of Egyptians who are linked to misappropriated assets and subject to an asset-freeze.
In response to the investigation, the Foreign Office said it was working closely with its Egyptian counterparts to hunt down Mubarak regime assets. The Treasury, which has a dedicated unit tasked with implementing financial sanctions, said it was confident it had acted properly. Both departments said they could not comment on individual cases.
The revelations will embarrass British ministers, who have previously expressed support for the Arab uprisings and vowed to take "decisive action" to track down and return illicit funds taken out of Egypt.
Yet 18 months on from the downfall of Mubarak, publicly-accessible records from Companies House and Land Registry indicate that the fortunes of regime figures convicted of embezzling money from Egypt remain at least partially on UK soil and untouched by British authorities.
The problem is compounded by the apparent lack of political will in Egypt when it comes to chasing former regime assets --- a situation which some experts attribute to the continued influence of major players from the Mubarak era.
Egypt's government is currently pursuing a lawsuit against the UK Treasury for dragging its heels on asset recovery.
"This is a collective crime from both the British and Egyptian governments," said Dr Mohamed Mahsoob, a public investigator who led enquiries into Egypt's "stolen billions" and who has since been appointed to the country's new cabinet.
"The UK is one of the worst countries when it comes to tracing and freezing Egyptian assets," he said.
"The British are saying that they need official requests from the Egyptian government before they take any action and that until this happens they are allowing the free movement of assets and the closure of certain accounts of companies beyond UK borders, to be reinvested elsewhere under different guises in order to prevent it from being retrieved.
"This is pure political profiteering that doesn't reflect the concept of British justice and democracy that we teach in Egyptian universities.
"The UK is doing nothing less than bleeding Egyptian assets, which can only be to the detriment of the Egyptian nation."
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