Britain says Egypt must request Mubarak asset freeze
Britain tried Monday to deflect growing pressure to freeze assets belonging to ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, saying it could only act if it received a request from Cairo.
Newspapers reported that Mubarak has assets worth millions of pounds in Britain, but a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron added that any action should come as part of an international arrangement.
"As I understand the situation on asset freezing, there has to be some international effort... and a request has to be made" by the Egyptian authorities, Cameron's spokesman told reporters.
Switzerland on Friday ordered a freeze on any assets belonging to Mubarak and his entourage but British officials have said they would likely take any action through an international body such as the European Union.
"Countries act together to freeze assets so it normally comes through some international gathering," the spokesman said.
He would not comment on whether there was any possibility that Mubarak, whose wife Suzanne is Welsh, could go into exile in Britain.
Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said it was "aware" of reports about Mubarak's assets being in Britain but said it had not yet received any request to take action.
"We are aware of the situation, we are taking an interest in developments, and we will be ready to respond to any request for assistance in tracing assets that might be made," an SFO spokesman told AFP.
Such requests would normally be made by foreign governments or agencies through Britain's Home Office, or interior ministry, which would then pass them to the fraud office, the spokesman added.
Business minister Vince Cable on Sunday called for "concerted international action" on Mubarak's assets and said the government would act against any British bank found to have helped the ousted leader improperly move funds.
Egyptian democracy campaigners in London were to hold a press conference in parliament on Monday to call for a freeze on any of Mubarak's assets, while a former minister on Sunday urged the government to take action.
© 2011 AFP