Asset recovery to Arab Spring countries in transition
Delivered in Plenary - 22nd May 2013
The Arab Spring was intended to embody the essence of political freedom: the fundamental right of populations to determine how they live and how they are governed. That spirit of freedom and democracy which swept away the rigid secular tyrannies in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt bore justice at its centre, but too much was stolen from the people for too long, and if the revolution was to achieve anything, it was right and proper for those deeply entrenched wrongs to be reversed. Gadaffi alone is alleged to have plundered about USD 200 billion from his people; Hosni Mubarak has an estimated GBP 133 million offshore (some of it was stashed in London, the city that I represent); and the Swiss Government froze around USD 68 million of President Ben Ali’s ill-gotten gains from the Tunisian people. All the while, vast swathes of their populations lived in absolute poverty.
At a time when the air of hope in those countries has given way to so much resignation, and in some cases despair, asset recovery is a tangible means to demonstrate that the revolutions were not in vain and that the monies which were stolen from the people can rightly be restituted to them.
A clear plan is now necessary for negotiations to be instituted between the Middle Eastern and North African governments and those of the countries storing these assets – all of which are available – including the need to find appropriately-trained forensic accountants to be deployed to trace and return these monies.
We must also further encourage friendly jurisdictions to assist the Arab Spring countries as far as they can in this matter. However, this is not an area in which my group believes that the EU should assume direct and new competences. We would oppose this and we would oppose the establishment of any dedicated EU taskforce for this purpose as it is a matter for intergovernmental, global cooperation, for the G8, or for the UN, to which the EU can add little value per se. But we would continue to do all that we can to support the Arab Spring countries in this matter to ensure that a lasting injustice from decades of tyranny can finally be corrected.