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Arab rulers and spy chiefs kept millions of dollars in the Swiss Bank

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The king and queen of Jordan have secret Swiss bank accounts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a massive data leak from one of Switzerland’s largest banks. So are the sons of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s ousted president, and the business tycoons who thrived during his 30 years in power.

Other accounts involve spy chiefs from Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, who have collaborated with the United States and have been accused of human rights abuses.

Citizens across the Middle East have long lacked information about the finances of their country’s elites beyond what they could glean from peering through palace walls.

Now, Data leak from Credit Suisse opened a loophole for the private wealth of a wide range of powerful people, raising new questions about the ability of elites to turn public office into private profit in countries where the The lack of transparency creates vulnerabilities for corruption.

Nadim Houry, CEO of Arab Reform Initiative.

Facilitating political connections, he said, is the failure of many states to draw the line between rulers and state property.

“It looks like a state, it sounds like a state, but in the end when it comes to the country’s assets,” he said, many powerful people “act like absolute monarchs who dispose of their wealth.” personal property”.

Credit Suisse’s secret banking information leaked to German newspapers Suddeutsche Zeitungand is provided to The New York Times and other news organizations by Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

The data contains account information for a number of decades and includes the account holder’s name, their account opening and closing dates, and their closing and maximum balances. The leaked data did not include information on the flow of funds through the accounts, the source of the funds or the extent of any banks asking if the funds could be contaminated.

Most of the account holders named in the leak either lost power or died, reducing the likelihood that the disclosures would inspire accountability efforts. However, Mr Houry said there was little suggestion that ruling officials now have fewer avenues to profit than their predecessors, although some countries have moved to increase surveillance. government spending following anti-corruption and autocratic protests during the Arab Spring. spread throughout the Middle East in 2011.

“Honestly, they’ve all shifted capacity because dynamics haven’t changed and there’s no state operator that can hold accountable power,” Mr Houry said.

In the years before President Mubarak of Egypt was ousted during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, a group of businessmen close to him made a fortune when Mr. Mubarak privatized his family fortune. country and make other efforts to liberalize the country’s economy. His sons, Gamal and Alaa, also became rich.

The Mubarak brothers hold six accounts at Credit Suisse, including a joint account that grew to about $196 million in 2003, according to leaked data.

Each son’s father-in-law also has multimillion-dollar bank accounts, as do other businessmen linked to the Mubaraks, who have been tried by Egyptian authorities for corruption.

As the Arab Spring unfolded across the Middle East, Swiss authorities announced that they had frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in assets linked to Mr. Mubarak and his government, as well as those of contacts with governments in Syria, Libya and Tunisia. But details on exactly what was frozen remain scarce.

Through their attorneys, Gamal and Alaa Mubarak told The New York Times that all of their assets were legally acquired through “successful professional business practices” and duly declared. with the necessary authorities.

They said the leaked account information may contain “several important inaccuracies” but did not elaborate.

The only sitting head of state in the leaked data is King Abdullah II of Jordan, a close US partner with whom the kingdom has received billions of dollars in military and economic aid from the United States in the past year. the years. That aid in total $22 billion in 2018.

According to leaked data, King Abdullah has six Swiss accounts, including one that held more than $224 million in 2015. His wife, Queen Rania, had accounts in excess of $40 million in 2013. These accounts were closed in 2015 and 2016.

Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court said in a statement that there was no “illegal or improper conduct” regarding the bank accounts.

The bulk of the money in the king’s largest account came from the sale of an aircraft in May 2015 for $212 million, the statement said. The rest is his “personal property,” inherited from his father, the previous king, and has invested since.

Queen Rania’s account holds part of the king’s personal fortune for the couple’s four children, who were minors at the time, the statement said. The leaked balance was incorrect, it said, but it did not provide an alternative number.

This money is used to buy a smaller plane, for investments, personal expenses and economic and social projects for the Jordanians as well as to maintain the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem under the control of the Jordanian people. guardian of the king, the statement said.

Leaked data shows that the former president of Algeria, Abdulaziz Bouteflika, had a joint account with several relatives, holding $1.1 million in 2005. He was ousted after 20 years in power. 2019 and die in 2021.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, who ruled for almost 5 decades until his death in 2020has two accounts, one holding close to $126 million in 2003 and another holding $57 million in 2015.

Accounts held by intelligence chiefs or their relatives include people who have worked closely with the Central Intelligence Agency on covert and counter-terrorism operations, and some accused of overseeing torture and other human rights abuses.

In 2003, close associates of Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s longtime intelligence chief and key interlocutor with the CIA, opened a joint account whose balance would grow to $52 million over the next few years. , the data shows.

Mr. Suleiman died in 2012but the account survived Mr. Mubarak’s fall and remained open until 2016. Attempts by the project reportedly to reach his relatives were unsuccessful.

From 2000 to 2005, Saad Kheir headed the Jordanian intelligence service, a key US counterterrorism partner that human rights groups say interrogated terrorism suspects for the United States. In 2003, he opened an account with a balance of $21.6 million before the account was closed after his death in 2009.

Douglas London, a retired senior CIA officer, said that while it’s possible that the money the intelligence chiefs hold is for covert government operations, the men who keep it under on behalf of themselves or their loved ones deems it to be used for personal purposes.

“This is the right hand and minion to the autocrats, so they are well looked after for their loyalty and service,” he said. “It’s just, for better or for worse, the way things work in these countries.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/21/world/middleeast/arab-rulers-credit-suisse.html Arab rulers and spy chiefs kept millions of dollars in the Swiss Bank

Fry Electronics Team

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