WASHINGTON: A new report released on Monday shows how Arab rulers stashed hundreds of millions of dollars at the Credit Suisse bank before the so-called Arab spring in 2011.

The report titled “False Spring” shows the Arab elite had deep ties to Credit Suisse on the eve of those historic uprisings that jolted the Middle East. The Arab Spring also drew enormous scrutiny to the wealth Arab elites had stashed abroad.

On Sunday, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a consortium of investigators and journalists, unveiled a trove of secret bank accounts associated with the Credit Suisse bank. Their findings stirred a major financial controversy like the recent Panama Papers scandal.

The OCCRP leak reveals how figures linked to regimes in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Jordan, and elsewhere held hundreds of millions at Credit Suisse before and after the uprising.

Credit Suisse customers included heads of state, royal families, ministers, spy chiefs, and government-connected businessmen from across the Arab world.

The sons of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held six accounts between them, with the highest maximum balance worth over 277 million Swiss francs ($197.5 million at the time).

A network of Mubarak in-laws and business associates also held accounts before and after the Arab Spring, with tens of millions of Swiss francs in assets.

Some accounts remained open even after their holders were targeted by crowds protesting corruption or were subject to legal actions by prosecutors.

“In the space of just three weeks in 2011, millions took to the streets across the Arab world, demanding accountability for a ruling class that had hoarded wealth and sent it abroad for decades,” the report adds. This panicked the Arab elite who feared losing their wealth.

Mubarak resigned in February, and within 30 minutes Swiss authorities had frozen hundreds of millions of dollars’ of assets linked to him and his government.

Leaked data from Credit Suisse gives new insight into some of the wealth the Mubaraks and other elites held at the Zurich-based bank in the years before the Arab Spring, and after it started to rattle their hold on power.

The data shows that the Mubarak brothers held six accounts at Credit Suisse. One of Alaa’s accounts was opened as early as 1987, when he was 27. Another joint account held by the two had a maximum balance worth 277 million Swiss francs ($197.5 million at the time) — amounts previously suggested by statements from Egyptian authorities, but never confirmed.

The leaked data contained more accounts from Egypt than any other Arab country. But the account holders came from over half a dozen countries hit by the Arab Spring protests, including Syria, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2022

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