Mubarak’s Loot: $38 Million Found! Still Hidden? $69,962 Million

The New York Times heralds that,

Swiss Locate Funds Linked to Mubarak

But what the story really reports is that the Swiss have located just “several dozen million Swiss francs,” which works out to less than $38 million of the up to $70 billion Hosni Mubarak reportedly looted from Egypt. The real headline of the story ought to be…

Former Western Allies Dragging Feet on Mubarak’s Millions

… as the important news of the story, appearing in paragraphs 11 and 12, is:

On Thursday, the United States Treasury Department advised American banks to monitor movements of funds by former senior Egyptian political figures that “could potentially represent misappropriated or diverted state assets, proceeds of bribery or other illegal payments.”

European foreign ministers are scheduled to discuss the issue at a meeting on Sunday and Monday. As of Friday, no reports had emerged that assets belonging to the Mubaraks or the five associates had been frozen in the United States or other countries in Europe.

In other words, while the Swiss have found some petty cash which might be Mubarak’s, no one in Mubarak’s former patron governments has bothered to freeze his assets (though the Treasury Department decided, a full week after Mubarak stepped down, weeks after Western intelligence services apparently listened in on urgent Mubarak family conversations about moving their loot, and almost a month since it looked like he might be forced to step down, to start monitoring funds that might be his or other former top Egyptian officials).

And it’s not like this is the first that Egyptians have asked the rest of the world to stop Mubarak from looting their country. This WikiLeaks cable, reporting a meeting with one of the leaders of Egypt’s April 6 movement (so probably someone who had a key role in the Egyptian uprising), not only dismissed the thought of overthrowing Mubarak before the 2011 elections to be “outside the mainstream” of Egyptian opposition.

XXXXXXXXXXXX offered no roadmap of concrete steps toward April 6’s highly unrealistic goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections. Most opposition parties and independent NGOs work toward achieving tangible, incremental reform within the current political context, even if they may be pessimistic about their chances of success. XXXXXXXXXXXX’s wholesale rejection of such an approach places him outside this mainstream of opposition politicians and activists.

But it also treated this activists’ suggestion that the U.S. freeze Mubarak’s accounts back in December 2008 with the thick disdain of scare quotes.

(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX described how he tried to convince his Washington interlocutors that the USG should pressure the GOE to implement significant reforms by threatening to reveal information about GOE officials’ alleged “illegal” off-shore bank accounts. He hoped that the U.S. and the international community would freeze these bank accounts, like the accounts of Zimbabwean President Mugabe’s confidantes. XXXXXXXXXXXX said he wants to convince the USG that Mubarak is worse than Mugabe and that the GOE will never accept democratic reform. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that Mubarak derives his legitimacy from U.S. support, and therefore charged the U.S. with “being responsible” for Mubarak’s “crimes.”

The diplomats who met with this activist made it clear to label the judgment that Mubarak’s looting was “illegal” as the activist’s viewpoint, not necessarily one they shared. So, too, did they mark U.S. “responsib[ility]” for Mubarak’s “crimes” with quotation marks signaling they didn’t necessarily agree.

This pisses me off all the more because — after seeing Yves Smith rave about it for weeks — I’ve been reading Nicholas Shaxson’s Treasure Islands (I’m hoping we’ll be able to arrange a book salon when the book comes out in the U.S. in April). Normally, discussions of developing nation elites looting their countries focus on the corruption of the countries themselves. But Shaxson shows how the ability to loot a country like Mubarak has depends on a whole network of secrecy jurisdictions, of which Switzerland is now just the stodgiest. Indeed, Shaxon shows that the UK and U.S. have competed since World War II to set up the most extensive secrecy jurisdictions to ensure the looted funds from the rest of the world end up driving our financialized economies.

Mubarak’s looted billions — indeed, his ability to loot billions as representatives of our government scoff at activists who call such looting illegal — plays a fundamental role in our house of cards economy. And, given that we reward obedient client dictators with permission to loot their country, it plays a fundamental role in American hegemony in this world.

Yves predicted that authorities would find a few billion, seize a few houses, and declare victory.

If the authorities nab a few billion, plus all the tangible assets like houses, they can declare victory and try to cover up the fact that a great deal was lost.

That seems to be what this NYT article serves to do: dangle the discovery of a fraction of a percent of Mubarak’s total heist as a victory, as U.S. and British authorities very deliberately stall on doing anything to stop Mubarak from hiding the rest.

  1. PJEvans says:

    $69 billion will buy a lot of officials.
    Heck, the Wall Street @#$%^&*()_s got a lot of help for much less than that. For $69 billion, you could buy the entire US government and still have more than enough for a very comfortable life.

    • Phoenix Woman says:

      Notice how, after the $70 billion figure was first released, the PTBs went to great lengths to say “oh no no, that’s not right, it’s only around $3 to $4 billion, tops”?

      In other words, they’re making Mubarak tithe $3 to $4 billion so he can hang out happily with the other $66 billion he stole from Egypt.

      • Knut says:

        There’s something very odd about these numbers. I’m not saying the big sums are wrong, just that they are very odd. It’s hard to move that kind of cash around without leaving a track, even if it’s only a billion here, a billion there. Then there is the fact that Mubarak will not live to enjoy that loot, and even if he wanted to, the only thing that kind of money is good for is to purchase power over other people. When you are that rich, that is all that big money is good for, which is why Jamie Dimon is so down in the mouth: all that money and so little respect!

        Where does it go after Mubarak dies, and who runs it? Is it just a gift to the banks, or has someone figured out how to siphon some of it off. Thnere’s so much Mubark would never miss a billion or two. Follow the money. That is a lot of cash sloshing around. It has to leave a track.

        • papau says:

          True –

          Seems Mubarak moved $5 billion out of the EU in the last 10 days – but I have yet to see or hear what was left behind beyond hard assets like real estate, all held via trusts and such, or at least via family member ownership.

          It is the standard American Rich family ($1 billion or more – and there are a few thousand such families in America) approach – nothing directly in your family name and certainly not in your individual name. One of the things I like about actress/comedian Julia Louis-Dreyfus is that she does not try to hide her billion dollar inheritance.

          The estimates that seem to have some validity (I learned to discount Arab street estimates when I was over there – felt it was a cultural thing to “go large” on estimates) top out at $30 billion – and I suspect $10 billion is the real number. But with $5 billion out of the EU in the last 10 days and not traceable via legal means, and much of the remainder buried deep in trusts, I suspect the Mubarak kids need not worry about their financial future. As with all US Aid, most was round trip back to US corporations, so his wealth is via his setting up toll booths for businesses in Egypt – and Egypt is a poor country. The generals that replaced him were given the rights to a few toll booths by Mubarak and are therefore rich – so chasing Mubarak exposes themselves to the same charges. It may be that the $38 million is the majority of what will be recovered.

    • TarheelDem says:

      For $69 billion you could buy every elected official in the US. And have money to spare. That is essentially the Koch Brothers agenda. But they are smarter than Mubarak; they leverage their “investments” with the contributions of other people “committed to the cause”.

      Is or is not Mubarak still in Egypt. And where is Gamal? It seems like Egypt would be a pretty bad place to flaunt your conspicuous consumption for now. Wait a minute. There’s that resort estate in Sharm al-Shaik and there are no crowds surrounding it or trying to storm it like the Winter Palace.

      And how would seizing some fancy US office building or multi-thousand acre US farm look in these hard time? Bet there’s a lot of globally distributed real estate in Mubarak’s portfolio. Yep, $38 million is either the petty cash account or the wife’s European shopping trip account for 2011.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Just think about how long those Swiss banks held on to the Nazis’ loot, and the stumbling blocks they invented to keep legitimate claimants from seeking the return of assets stolen from them.

    I’m all for allowing dictators to retire peacefully along the Adriatic – if, if it accomplishes their prompt removal and brings greater peace and opportunity to their countries. It seems a reasonable price to avoid bloodshed many times worse than Bahrain’s.

    The price for immunity, however, the price for avoiding jail or being treated as they formerly treated protesters ought to include their full cooperation with truth and reconciliation commissions that seek to document their past conduct and/or crimes, and their return of all but an agreed amount of their ill-gotten gains.

    I don’t know what that amount would need to be, $100 million perhaps, but it’s certainly a tiny fraction of the tens of billions Mubarak obtained by demanding a piece of all the action for the past 30 years.

    Mubarak, of course, was joined in taking a cut of Egypt’s GDP by all his top generals. It’s a “business” model common in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Persuading them to take less going forward, allowing more productivity to be shared by the people who actually generate it, will be a major issue in Egypt’s march toward democracy.

  3. bmull says:

    There should be a law that when one country, such as Switzerland, freezes assets then all developed economies do the same.

  4. orionATL says:

    this post,

    and the one on bush pere,

    took some nerve to write –

    and some nerve to publish.

    the truth,

    or close approximations thereunto,

    seems to scare most folks

    nigh unto

    denial –

    or retribution.

  5. orionATL says:

    shades of hbgaryfed, palantir

    and aaron barr:

    lichtbrau and risen,


    feb 19,2011.

    oh, and may i add,

    consultant/lobbyist and former director of the u.s. dept of homeland security, michael chertoff

    and the “michaelangelo machine”,

    which now examines millions of americans’ bodies, abstracting clothes,

    for signs of hidden explosives.

    trivial, off-topic question:

    if it is o.k. to carry a concealed pistol (jargon: “concealed weapon”) in a bar, church, school, business establishment, etc.?

    why is it not o. k. to carry a concealed pistol on an aeroplane?

  6. orionATL says:

    uh oh, i had a feelin’ ;

    and checked it out.

    scratch reference to “michealangelo machine”.

    substitute ” vitruvian man machine” (of leonardo da vinci).

  7. alabama says:

    1.) Who the hell knows how to hide $70 billion?

    2.) How, for that matter, do you spend it, even over a period of 30 years?

    3.) Supposing that Mubarak were an angel of peace and sweet reason, would he have had a choice, back in 1978, to refuse such an outsized olive branch, on the grounds that Egypt could not reliably bank it, plan it, and disburse it, given the government’s size, history, and competence? Or did he have no choice, given the calculus of symmetry between Egypt and any other state involved in the peace agreements?

    4.) What does Jimmy Carter have to say about this?

    • BoxTurtle says:

      1) Give me $70 billion in cash or gold, I can make it vanish. And I’m not a pro, I just know how to make phones calls and whom to call. Making $30K vanish is much harder, so us little guys get screwed again.

      2) Few million here, a few million there. It adds up. And a 100 person household staff helps a lot, especially around the holidays. Plus, bribes AIN’T cheap anymore.

      3) Sadat cut the deal. Mubarak continued it. Given that Sadat was killed by his own bodyguards over the deal, I’d have to think there were a lot of sweeteners offered to get Mubarak to hold it. Those sweeteners are now coming due.

      4) He’s not being quoted in MSM, so I assume he supporting freedom for the Egyptians and the rule of law for Mubarak and his cronys.



      Hi, Hosni, it’s Barry. Got a moment?

      For you, sure. What’s up?

      Well, we’ve noticed you’re moving your moving your money around. Anything I should know about?

      I’m getting my ass kicked over here and they’re saying things like “Ill gotten gains” and “graft”. I’ve gotta get it out of reach and hidden in case I have to split.

      Well, you’re going to HAVE to split. How much time do you need to SHREAD EVERYTHING, stash the cash, and get the heck out? And you gotta leave us a few hunderd mil to find.

      Maybe a week. I’ll leave you a couple of billion lying around and you can take all the houses in countries that might extradite.

      Works for me. Say as long as I have you on the phone, how’d you manage to disconnect the internet so quickly?


      Boxturtle (There’s probably another conversation to work out Obama’s cut)

  8. orionATL says:

    what’s the wealth of the mubarak family?

    i doubt anyone outside the family knows.

    how did mubarak, his wife, and his two sons get their money?

    here’s an article from the guardian:

    apparently some of the wealth is in property which makes it’s value variable.

    mubarak’s two sons are also wealthy. one is a businessman, the other an investment banker.

    another guardian article:

    and some is in those darned offshore islands (bet you didn’t know crete was one of them):

  9. lsls says:

    Ring Ring…Barry: Hi Hosni, say about the..

    Hosni: Fuck you Barry

    Ring Ring…Barry: Hi Omar, say about the..

    Omar: You touch my money, I’ll tell everything…oh yeah, and Fuck you.


  10. canadianbeaver says:

    Not defending this guy in any way, but what leader in any nation anywhere, does not leave office way wealthier than when they got in? Seriously. It’s everywhere, even in the West. We would be hypocrites to shout about his fraud and corruption, without pointing out the same of our “leaders”.

      • canadianbeaver says:

        You have to admit it sounds stupid. Oh lookie at the shiny rock. Don’t worry about the one here that we just voted for.

        • canadianbeaver says:

          Oh and our “intelligence” community was monitoring the Egyptian gov’ts conversations, but knew nothing of what was going on in…get ready for it……..Egypt!! Bwahahahahaah….and in other stupid news….Shrillary says the US is in the process of separating AlKeeda from the CIA…err..the Taliban.

  11. canadianbeaver says:

    Oh and more unexplained. Western intelligence listened in on Mubarak moving money around, but did not see protests coming? They had no idea that people were going to rise up, but had the phones tapped? Ya, right.

  12. Shoto says:

    Yves predicted that authorities would find a few billion, seize a few houses, and declare victory.

    So is the $69,962 Mill a grossed up number, or is it adjusted for the total amount of bribes required to keep the rest of the money hidden? Or are the bribes coming from a different fund, entirely?


  13. justbetty says:

    John LeCarre has been covering this story for years, but that’s just fiction, right? By the way, I seem to recall that he was one of Mrs. Clinton’s favorite authors. Hmmm.

  14. SteveNS says:

    Multiply Mubarak’s billions by the number of dictators who are now, and have been historically, supported by Western interests. There have to be trillions out there, money that will never find its way into the hands of the people.

    Nope, the banks use these funds to make even more money for themselves, so they’ll never own up to knowing exactly where it all is.

    • TarheelDem says:

      Guess who took a shellacking in the credit default swap meltdown and who those bailout payments to foreign “counterparties” made whole?

  15. EternalVigilance says:

    Steal billions but have the punishment be repayment of only a few million?

    Who does this Mubarak think he is – some kind of American banker?

  16. Tina O says:

    To make myself more clear to everyone, in my above statement that would be larry summers, and himself in the I-work-for-the-own-the-world-club.