The dictators of the Arab Spring – and those in their inner circles – held tightly onto fortunes they amassed while in power.
Billions of dollars worth of assets and cash were siphoned off into offshore accounts, hidden behind frontmen and nominee shareholders. These clandestine treasure pots were never meant to be found and in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, investigators are facing an uphill struggle to trace and recover the money.
Now, the secrets of where this money is located has become so classified it could get you killed or at least make you scared enough to disappear off the radar.
The list that follows is by no means exhaustive, and recounts some mysterious deaths and disappearances of the Arab Spring. Additions are welcome.
1) Shukri Ghanem, a former Libyan oil minister who fled the country last year, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in the Danube River in Vienna on April 29.[caption id="attachment_267" align="alignright" width="180"] Shukri Ghanem[/caption]
“Days earlier, he offered to tell Libyan officials everything he knew about a range of suspect oil deals in exchange for immunity from prosecution, according to two men who spoke with him,” Robert F. Worth writes in the New York Times.
2) Bashir Saleh Bashir, another Qaddafi confidant who ran the Libyan African Portfolio, the country’s sovereign wealth fund that invested in hotels, banks, telecommunication shares and mining concessions.
He is allegedly “the only man who knows the whereabouts of $7 billion in Colonel Qaddafi’s African investments, Libyan officials say [and] was captured by rebels last year, later turning up in France. Mr. Bashir’s current whereabouts is unknown,” Worth writes.
3) Wadea Wahby Girgis, an Egyptian nuclear scientist, was found dead near a railroad in Cairo last week.
The death has a mysterious tinge to it. President Mohammed Morsi also recently announced plans to revive a nuclear power project in Egypt. The timing of Girgis’ death may be merely coincidental, but many of the region’s nuclear nuclear scientists have a habit of disappearing or dying under strange circumstances.
“Forensic analysts examined the body and found that it was fully dressed and bearing bruises that had resulted from a severe crash”, according to the Al Masry Al Youm article.
Investigators have ruled out any criminal act behind his death and said he was “probably hit by a train while trying to cross the railroad”.
But what if the death was more suspicious as Sherlock Holmes discovered in “The Great Game” episode, where the victim was discovered on a railroad track and was later found to have died before being hit by the train.
4) The death of Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s former spy chief, last month was never completely clear (different accounts mention cancer, heart attack and amyloidosis, which causes certain proteins to be abnormally deposited, affecting the organs).
His sudden death has raised suspicion that something untoward happened to the man who was believed to hold more secrets about Egypt and its politicians than any other.
5) Taher Helmy, a lawyer connected to the Mubarak family, has created suspicion after he disappeared from Egypt as the revolution unfolded last year. His whereabouts are unknown, although he recently bought a flat in New York.[caption id="attachment_260" align="alignleft" width="105"] Taher Helmy[/caption]
“He helped draft legislation in 1991 that authorized Egypt’s [controversial] privatization program, with a plan to privatize more than 350 companies worth $104 billion.
Mubarak teamed up with Helmy to create the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies to promote market reforms through books, policy papers and conferences. The center’s primary source of revenue came from the $10 million endowment from USAID,” write James V. Grimaldi and Robert O’Harrow Jr in this Washington Post investigation.
6) Rachid Mohammed Raschid, Egypt’s former trade minister, was tried in absentia in June 2011, and found guilty of embezzlement and squandering public funds. He was sentenced to five years in prison. He is thought to be in the United Arab Emirates.
7) Carole Waugh, an oil executive who lived in Libya for several years, was found dead in a London garage earlier this month.
“Her former boss, Stuart Anderson, told journalists she had fled Libya after being threatened by someone in Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, but a Scotland Yard spokesman said inquiries were focused in London,” this Press Association article notes.[caption id="attachment_261" align="alignright" width="211"] Carole Waugh[/caption]
In 2000, Waugh got a job in Libya with Veba Oil in 2000. Her salary was then £24,000 ($37,560) after tax. And yet, as David Randall writes in The Independent, “she had some impressive jewellery, significant items of which are missing. They include a Cartier ring, a white-gold bracelet, and a yellow-gold bracelet and necklace.”
The murder is puzzling, and her connections to North Africa even more intriguing.