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Ben Ali’s fortune and the Mubarak network: A misleading parallel

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2011-02-08

It has been reported that the fortune of the embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is between 40 and 70 billion dollars. However, comparisons being drawn between the wealth of Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali are misleading.

The fortune of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s family is said to possibly be as high as 70 billion dollars, or 51 billion euros. That estimation, published in British daily The Guardian, is the result of evaluations carried out by Egyptian experts.

Most of that money is rumoured to be held in foreign bank accounts or invested in real estate in London, New York, and Los Angeles.

This image of a family rolling in money suggests a parallel with ousted Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali’s famously wealthy clan. But several specialists who have written widely on Egypt refute the comparison.

“Apart from his public salary of several thousand euros per month, we don’t know anyt

The Mubarak clan's millions

hing about Hosni Mubarak’s public wealth,” said Jean-Noël Ferrié, research director at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research and the author of a book about Egypt under Mubarak. Ferrié estimates that the evaluation of the Mubarak family’s fortune is inflated by “at least one or two zeros”.

Tewfik Aclimendos, a researcher on Egypt at the Collège de France, agreed with that assessment, saying that it is difficult to pin a number on the Egyptian president’s wealth.

Corruption reaching far beyond Mubarak’s inner circle

That said, according to Ferrié, unlike in Tunisa, all of Egyptian society – “from the lowest-ranking police officer to the highest power” – is part of a larger scheme of corruption. Whereas in Tunisia, authorities have been accused of “organised racketeering”, Ferrié explained that “a system of extreme vote buying” exists in Egypt.

Indeed, both Ferrié and Aclimendos say that Mubarak and even former President Anwar El Sadat in the 1970s granted favours for entire segments of the population – businessmen, military officials – in order to secure their electoral support. These bribes consisted, for example, of real estate opportunities like hotels or plots of land sold at low prices. In Tunisia, on the other hand, only a small clique close to the president and his wife’s family, the Trabelsis, benefitted from those kinds of gifts.

In Egypt, those close to President Mubarak have also benefitted from the pervasive corruption. “We know, for example, that Gamal Mubarak [Hosni’s younger son] owes a part of his fortune to his marriage to the daughter of a rich Egyptian entrepreneur specialised in construction,” said Ferrié.

Mubarak and those that make up his extended clan are hardly the only ones in Egypt putting money in foreign bank accounts. “Any Egyptian entrepreneur, even one from an average company, keeps sums of money outside of Egypt,” Ferrié noted.
 
Unlike in Tunisia, where a small group of people has its hands on a large portion of the country’s wealth, a far bigger number of Egyptians are to this day financially dependent on Mubarak’s regime.

Date created : 2011-02-08

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