The sons of Egypt’s ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, acquitted on corruption charges Saturday, woke Sunday to discover they will face new charges of money laundering, prosecutors announced yesterday.
The judge’s decision not to impose the death penalty on the former president, and to clear his sons of corruption charges, prompted thousands of Egyptians to turn out in fiece protest across the country, despite searing heat. Just last year, Switzerland’s Illicit Gains Authority estimated the value of Mubarak family assets at $450 million, some $340 million of it held in Gamal and Alaa’s names.
Days before Saturday’s verdict, prosecutors slapped additional charges of insider trading on the brothers, estimating that they had illegally profited by some $331 million.
But the pile on of charges failed to appease widespread fury over the outcome. “Egyptian Magician,” a blogger, wrote in Al Ahram online, “How can they find him not guilty for corruption when people were saying he had $70 Billion? How can they find him not guilty of corruption when the British and Swiss find 100’s of millions of dollars in their bank accounts?” Egyptian Magician asked what hope Egypt had of recovering the money from foreign accounts with Saturday’s verdict, adding, “These people never governed Egypt, they were its oppressors and victimizers.”
The verdicts also exposed new political divisions as the country heads toward runoff elections for the presidency. On Tuesday, more protests were planned to demand that Ahmed Shafiq, a candidate who was Mubarak’s former prime minister, withdraw from the ballot.
The president of South Sudan, struggling to build credibility for a young country already plagued with reports of massive stealing, has written a letter pleading with corrupt officials to turn back public funds they have pocketed illegally.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter, in which South Sudan’s President Salvia Kiir calls on 75 government officials, some of them still in office, to turn back some $4 billion in stolen funds.
“We fought for freedom, justice and equality,” the president wrote. “Yet once we got to power, we forgot what we fought for and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people.”
After decades of civil war, South Sudan broke away from the north in a 2005 peace deal, and became the world’s newest country last year. But it has faced troubling levels of corruption in a country so young and so ravaged by famine and war. The country’s auditor general announced in January that $1.5 billion was missing from the 2005-2006 accounts alone.
So far, the president’s office said in a statement, South Sudan has recovered $60 million in pilfered funds, through deposits to a special account set up in Kenya to receive stolen assets.
For the moment, his office is offering to preserve the anonymity of officials who turn back money and to grant them amnesty from prosecution, but it is pledging tough new laws to combat government corruption in the future.
Anna Hazare, the Indian anti-corruption activist, joined forces with Baba Ramdev, one of India’s most popular yoga gurus, for a symbolic day-long hunger strike in New Delhi Sunday, demanding tougher government efforts to block corruption.
Hazare’s criticism of political officials last year had drawn accusations that he was meddling in partisan politics, but his movement showed no sign of backing down.
Ramdev called on the Prime Minister to clean house, The Times of India reported. He demanded that government officials bring back ill-gotten gains stashed abroad by August threatening what the paper described as “a fight to the end.”
Kiran Bedi, a police official dubbed “India’s supercop,” has also joined forces with Hazare’s movement, throwing her weight behind the move to pass a bill known as the Jan Lokpal, aimed at criminalizing corruption. She, too, attended the Sunday fast.
Bedi spoke about the United Arab Emirates, which she had visited last week, telling the Delhi crowd, “There is no democracy in UAE. The hands of thieves are chopped off there. There is a fear of law.” If the Lokpal passes, she said, “wrongdoers will have the same fear.”