The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) issued a statement on Tuesday calling for a new independent asset recovery committee in order to ease the process of regaining Egyptian funds smuggled abroad by former regime members.
The call came as the Ministry of Justice proposed a new draft law requesting a new committee to be formed. In its statement the EIPR said that previously appointed committees have been dependent on the ministry and the executive branch of the state. EIPR believes that the committee’s lack of independence is hindering the process of recovering the funds.
Osama Diab, a researcher for EIPR, believes that the committee is affected by the ongoing political turmoil in Egypt due to this dependency.
Diab observed that this new committee would be at least the third of its kind since efforts began to recover the frozen assets. He reported that the Swiss court has complained about the frequent changes to their Egyptian point-of-contact.
Diab also reported that the court had made comparisons between Egypt and Tunisia. As a result Egypt appeared less stable than Tunisia, explaining the lagging process of recovering the funds.
“An independent committee would be more stable and would make the Egyptian side more credible,” said Diab.
The Ministry of Justice was not available for comment.
In December the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland denied Egypt’s representatives access to the file on the criminal case against several former regime members, due to concerns over human rights violations in Egypt reported by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The EIPR said in its statement that it was contacted by Valentin Zellweger, the head of the international law division at the Swiss foreign ministry. He told EIPR the decision to block access to the file “may slow down Egyptian-Swiss cooperation in determining the source of funds frozen in Switzerland”.
Zellweger did assert that Switzerland is committed to returning these funds as soon as possible.
In January the same Swiss court delayed the repatriation of the smuggled funds, said to be $767m. Political instability was cited as one of the reasons for the decision.
At the beginning of February a request by Egypt to release the funds was also rejected. However, the head of the Swiss foreign ministry, Didier Burkhalter, agreed to begin drafting a legal text to allow Egypt to regain the funds.