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Just one house recovered by UK from Arab Spring states

New powers needed to recover assets stolen by Middle Eastern dictators

24th November 2016, LondonA £10million house owned by the son of Muammar Gaddafi is the only illicit asset recovered by UK authorities from political elites of the Arab Spring states. Despite the estimated millions of pounds of assets in the UK owned by individuals from regimes accused of corruption, the UK has so far been unable to recover those resources.

Spring Cleaning” a new report from Transparency International UK (TI-UK) analyses the role of the UK in providing a safe haven for corrupt wealth from Middle Eastern rulers. In Syria Egypt and Libya, amongst others, corruption played a major role in igniting the “Arab Spring”, with mass protests decrying the misuse of power by political establishments.

It took the UK over 5 weeks to move against assets linked to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his close associates; UK law enforcement authorities having historically been hampered by a system which is over-reliant on cooperation from the state of origin to recover stolen assets.

Unexplained Wealth Orders, a key provision of the Criminal Finances Bill, currently before the House of Commons, would mark a major step towards empowering UK law enforcement to freeze, seize and return wealth stolen from those countries.

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK said:

“Millions of people rose up against the corruption of their rulers, it is vital that the UK is not complicit in allowing those elites to secretly stash their stolen wealth here. Speaking out against human rights abuses will sound hollow, if the UK continues to act as a safety deposit box for despots.”

“It is astonishing that in the almost six years since the Arab Spring protests began, just one single house has been recovered that was linked to corruption by political elites from these regimes. The current flaws in the UK system invites those struggling for human rights and democracy to view our real estate and financial sectors as facilitators of their suffering.”

“The cross-party support that the Government has received for Unexplained Wealth Orders is most encouraging. We hope that their passage into law, and agreements such as that with Nigeria, will provide UK law enforcement with the tools they need to recover stolen assets and return them more quickly in the future.”

This report takes TI-UK’s previous work on the UK as a haven for corrupt wealth and applies it to a particular high-money laundering risk context, highlighting flaws in the asset recovery system and putting forward solutions to these problems.



Notes to Editors:

  • Arab Spring Heads of State official income vs. estimated personal wealth

Head of State*

Estimated personal worth Notable assets*

Head of state salary (2015)[1]

Muammar Gaddafi, Libya (1969 – 2011)


Gold-Plated cutlery, crystal champagne glasses, rows of unworn designer shoes and show jumping circuits £84,000 per annum
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt

(1981 – 2011)


Hotels in Egypt and numerous houses and villas around the world

£56,320 per annum

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia
(1987 – 2011)


40 Luxury cars including a Lamborghini, a Maybach and an armoured Cadillac

£31,300 – £46,800 per annum[2]

Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen, (1990 – 2012)


Luxury assets in the form of property, cash, gold and other valuable commodities are believed to be spread across at least 20 countries

Salary not published

Bashar al-Assad, Syria
(2000 – present)

£0.4-1.2bn[4] Handmade furniture from Chelsea boutiques,  gold and gem-encrusted jewellery, chandeliers, expensive curtains and paintings

Salary not published

* The Economist: Making a hash of finding the cash, http://www.economist.com/news/international/21577368-why-have-arab-countries-recovered-so-little-money-thought-have-been-nabbed



Dominic Kavakeb
+4420 3096 7695
+44 7964 560340

[1]These salaries are from 2015 but still show the disparity between salary and estimated wealth of these individuals http://www.africaranking.com/highest-paid-african-presidents/ [Accessed 28 October 2016]

[2] http://allafrica.com/stories/201507100606.html  [Accessed 28 October 2016]

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-31632502 [Accessed 28 October 2016]

[4] http://www.cnbc.com/2013/09/20/assads-money-trail-is-hard-to-trace.html [Accessed 28 October 2016]


Read 264 times Last modified on Monday, 28 November 2016 15:03

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