- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
There’s been a fair amount of speculation in recent days about now ex-President Mubarak’s preperations for departure. I just spoke with Christopher Davidson, a professor of Middle East studies at Britain’s Durham University who focuses on the economic interests of Arab rulers. He cast doubt on the $70 billion figure which has been floated widely by the media recently, but said Mubarak undoubtedly has interests throughout the world to fall back on:
There would be something wrong with the people he paid if we knew much about this. A lot of the figures we’ve seen in the press are really just speculation. As with Gulf ruling families, his wealth is hidden abroad very carefully with layer upon layer of shell companies in London and the States. There’s also a big question about his numbered bank accounts in Europe, whether he will be able to recover those or not.
Davidson speculated that Mubarak’s ability to recover funds from his Swiss bank accounts, and the difficulties his now partner-in-exile Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier has had in recovering his own assets, may have played a role in his delayed departure:
I would imagine that he’ll struggle to recover everything. A few weeks ago we had the Baby Doc ruling in Switzerland, so that will clearly be playing on his mind. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why he was trying to hold on as long as possible, so he could portray himself as having resigned peacefully as a legitimate president rather than having been ousted.
Despite having now holed up at his "Winter Residence" in Egypt — which is less a palace than a floor of a luxury hotel and golf resort — and his earlier promise to die on Egyptian soil, Davidson believes that Mubarak is not long for Egypt:
He’ll be headed to the Gulf for sure. Perhaps not to Saudi like Ben Ali, but I think he’ll go to the UAE. [UAE Foreign Minister] Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed visited Cairo quite publicly and likely put a plan on the table to give him refuge.
Update: Sure enough, we now have reports that Switzerland is freezing Mubarak’s assets.