Swiss bank official: ‘Traces’ of Mubarak’s assets identified

Funds belonging to the family of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, or his senior ministers, have been discovered in Switzerland, a Swiss government official told the New York Times on Wednesday.

“The first traces have been identified. At the end of the week, we might have a better picture,” the paper quoted the official, who asked not to be identified, as saying.

The official declined to specify how much money had been identified or who owned the account, said the New York Times.

Switzerland, the world's biggest offshore banking center, ordered a three year freeze of assets that may belong to Mubarak shortly after he stepped down as president last Friday, 11 February.

Egypt is also seeking Switzerland's legal assistance in recovering assets of former Egyptian ministers and officials.

No official estimate was made of how much money or real estate deeds belonging to Mubarak or his associates might be held in Swiss banks.

In recent years, Switzerland has returned about $1.6 billion deposited in its banks by dictators to their countries.

Mubarak ruled Egypt since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat 30 years ago. During his reign corruption was endemic, and 40 percent of the country's 80 million people live on $2 or less a day.

Media reports have estimated Mubarak’s  wealth between US$40 billion and $70 billion.

"Oh, Mubarak, tell us where you got $70 billion!" protesters chanted in demonstrations before the president stepped down.

Global Financial Integrity, a Washington group that studies government corruption, estimates $57 billion in illegal assets was sent out of the country by top government officials between 2000 and 2008.

Egypt’s new military rulers also asked the US, Britain and France on Monday to freeze assets of former Egyptian officials who are suspected of sending billions of dollars of assets abroad.

However, senior administration officials in Washington and a foreign ministry spokesman in Paris said Mubarak was not included in the request.

The assets of former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali were frozen last month after he was also ousted by popular protests.

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