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From Kickback to Payback

February 13, 2011

What’s the opposite of “kickback?” Payback?

I mean, what do we call it when the money stolen from a country by its political leaders is given back by the banks and countries where that money has been hidden? There’s a movement afoot to do that with Egyptian funds held in overseas banks.

The poor of Egypt, I suspect,don't really believe they will see any of the stolen money in their pockets. But when you live hand-to-mouth, it's fun to imagine how you'd spend a thousand dollars...

On Friday, shortly after his resignation, Switzerland froze assets that might belong to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak pending investigation of whether they are legal or not.

The same day Huguette Labelle, the chair of Transparency International, an influential international corruption watchdog with ties to the UN, called on all governments and international banks should seize Hosni Mubarak’s assets and hold them in escrow to be returned to the people of Egypt

“When there is a dictator who appears to have acquired much more wealth than he would warrant as a salary of a head of a corporation or country, they should investigate immediately because you don’t know where those assets are parked,” Labelle said.

“It’s the people’s money,” she said. “It should return to the people assuming there is a government that will look after it.”

In the meantime, Egypt’s high court confirmed an injunction preventing three high-ranking NDP ministers with vast personal fortunes from leaving the country pending investigation into their finances.

A report by think tank Global Financial Integrity released in January found that Egypt is losing more than $6 billion US a year — more than $57.2 billion US between 2000 and 2008 — to illicit financial activities and official government corruption.

A labor leader (whose name I missed) was quoted on Al Jazeera, pointing out that if the reports on just these four men (Mubarak and the three ministers) are true, their combined wealth would be equal to a few thousand dollars for every man, woman and child in Egypt—a truly staggering image to the tens of millions of Egyptians living on less than $2 per day.

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