UK safe haven for fugitive Egyptian ex-official
When Egypt erupted into violence at the start of the year, the UK was among the first to support the uprising – out with the old dictatorship and in with a new era of democracy.
The old guard was swept aside, but many running in fear for their lives, ran straight to a new life in London. The local Egyptian community is horrified.
“Angry, disappointed, some of them call it shame on England,” says Mostafa Ragab, the Chair of the Egyptian Association, “because it’s a long time now that the British government has been allowing people running away not just from Egypt but from all over the world.”
Youssef Boutros Ghali, the former finance minister, instead of beginning a 30-year prison sentence for embezzlement in Egypt, is said to be running around London a free man.
Ghali was convicted in absentia of corruption, profiteering and abusing state and private assets. He has also been ordered to repay more than 10 million dollars.
MP Andy Slaughter has demanded the British government does something about it, but is disappointed by the response.
“I did expect to see some more action, both against the money and other goods that’s been extorted from Egypt and other Arab countries, but also against fugitives from justice in those countries and that’s what I’m still pressing the government here to do,” the Labour MP told RT. “Secondly, we do have a very strong tradition in this country of upholding international law, and I want to see that continue. I don’t want the current government to neglect that duty.”
Many think they are already negligent. In Boutros Ghali’s case, an international arrest warrant has reportedly been issued by Egypt. But critics feel money and connections secure a ticket to freedom in the UK.
“Boutros Ghali would not have a problem to get into the UK for so many reasons, and the simplest one of them is the money he’s got, “Mostafa Ragab is convinced. “You can get leave to remain in the UK with your money if your money is clear.”
Meanwhile in Egypt, people are not surprised. England, they say, is where corrupt Middle Eastern officials go to hide.
“He’s not a stranger to the West, he’s very much one of the West’s men in Egypt, or was one of the West’s men in Egypt,” says journalist Austin Mackel.” So, the fact that he’s found refuge in London is not surprising to anybody.”
The Egyptian diaspora in the UK is half a million strong and centered in London. Community leaders say the people are so angry, there is no guarantee Boutros Ghali will stay safe there. And the longer he remains, the more the UK allows itself to be accused of hypocrisy – pledging support for the Middle Eastern pro-democracy movements, whilst simultaneously harboring members of the old disgraced regimes.