FILE- Egyptian steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz during his retrial before the State Council over corruption charges- Egypt Today/ Amr Moustafa.
CAIRO - 27 March 2018: The Swiss authorities have handed Egypt a total of 33.8 million Swiss francs ($24.2 million) from Egyptian steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz’s blocked bank accounts after he reached reconciliation with the Egyptian government, Anthony Brovarone, spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Prosecution, told NZZ am Sonntag newspaper on Saturday.
It was not announced when exactly the money was handed over, but Brovarone added that that money was “arranged” on February 1, 2018.
On March 8, 2018, the Cairo Criminal Court dropped the last corruption case against Ezz as per a reconciliation deal with the Egyptian government. He paid the government LE 1.7 billion ($96.4 million). In October 2015, the Egyptian government passed amendments to the Reconciliation Law, by which the government would receive smuggled money in exchange for dropping the charges against defendants.
Ezz was sentenced to prison over corruption lawsuits regarding iron and steel licenses, money laundering, and the misuse of public funds, which amounted to LE 660 million; most of the verdicts against him were later overturned.
Brovarone said that it is the first time ever the Swiss Federal Prosecution has transfered unblocked money to the Egyptian state.
Switzerland has frozen suspicious money under Article 305bis of the Swiss Criminal Code concerning money laundering. Since the January 2011 revolution, Egypt has asked the Swiss authorities to freeze the assets of former President Hosni Mubarak, his sons and his close circle, including Ezz, over charges of corruption and money laundering.
An estimated 650 million Swiss francs was smuggled to Switzerland out of Egypt by 14 suspects during Mubarak’s era. However, an amount of frozen money was unblocked after dropping the charges against some of those figures since December 2016. The current amount of money frozen with the criminal proceedings is around 430 million Swiss francs, and investigations are still being conducted against six people, including Mubarak’s sons, Alaa and Gamal.
In December 2016, Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber announced in a press conference in Cairo that charges of money laundering and organized crime were dropped against a number of suspects, and a total of 180 million Swiss francs were unfrozen and returned to their owners.
Additional reporting by Samar Samir