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'Recover assets from politicians'

world Updated: Feb 13, 2011 23:50 IST
The Washington Post
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As Egyptians entered a new era Saturday, they were unanimous in one sentiment: To move forward, the country must recover the substantial assets that Hosni Mubarak, their deposed president, and his cronies allegedly pocketed during nearly three decades in power.

"He stole our money," said Mohammed Tarik, 20, a medical student who wore a white smock that read "Victory for Egypt." "If the next president can get back the money, he will show he's not like the old president. It would restore Egypt's dignity and bring respect for the government."

The sentiments among the tens of thousands who swarmed into Tahrir Square on Saturday to celebrate their triumph highlighted how much Mubarak's fate will determine the future of their revolution and the ability to heal wounds still festering from decades of corruption and autocratic rule.

Some demonstrators declared that Mubarak should face a trial and then be thrown in prison. Others said they preferred to let him live quietly in Egypt. The most extreme said they wanted him dead.

The wealth of Mubarak, his family and his political allies has long been a source of resentment in a nation with high unemployment, immense poverty, rising prices and a collective perception that only those with strong ties to Mubarak and his ruling party could succeed financially. Egyptian opposition leaders are vowing to push for a full investigation into Mubarak's financial dealings.

Among those interviewed Saturday, tracking down the wealth of Mubarak and his associates and returning it to Egypt is as much a priority as seeing a civilian democratic government replace the current council of military leaders tapped to rule the country.

"If we can get back some of the billions stolen, I will be satisfied with our revolution," said Mohammed Fattouh, 29, a tourism operator.

While Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko, the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos and, most recently, Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, fled into exile, making it difficult to recover their ill-gotten wealth, Mubarak has, for now at least, vowed to remain on Egyptian soil, allowing a unique opportunity to redress the past, many Egyptians said in interviews.

Few know Mubarak's worth. Some rumors, spreading on the Internet, say his family fortune is between $40 billion and $70 billion.

Middle East analysts and news reports in the Arabic media say Mubarak and his family kept most of their wealth in real estate stretching from Egypt's Red Sea coast to London, Los Angeles and New York, and in Swiss and offshore bank accounts.

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