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What's Worse Than Losing Egypt's Presidency? Answer: Losing $40 Billion

Friday, 11 Feb 2011 | 2:54 PM ET
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

The news for Hosni Mubarak keeps getting worse: First he loses power in Egypt—now the Swiss government has announced that Switzerland is freezing accounts belonging to Mubarak and his family.

Some believe Mubarak may lose up to $40 billion if things really go south for him.

That hypothetical involves two principal assumptions: First, an estimate of the Mubarak family's enormous wealth; second, that Egyptian protesters will get their way—and have corruption charges brought against the Mubarak clan, which will result in the disgorgement of substantial amounts of cash.

First, the breakdown of Mubarak's family wealth, which comes to us from an article by Susanna Kim.

Amaney Jamal, a political science professor at Princeton, speculates that much of the Mubarak's wealth are stored in banks outside of Egypt.

The reason for stashing cash outside of the country is a kind of strongman transition insurance. To quote Professor Jamal on the worldview of Middle Eastern dictators: "These leaders plan on this."

Aladdin Elaasar, author of a book called "The Last Pharaoh: Mubarak and the Uncertain Future of Egypt in the Obama Age," claims that the Mubarak family has wealth held in other Western assets besides simply bank accounts.

In fact, Elaasar lists Chili's restaurants, Hyundai & Skoda auto dealerships, and Vodafone as companies in which the Mubarak sons hold shares.

(Not surprisingly, when ABC News contacted the holding company that owns Chili's restaurant their chairman, Mansour Amer, claimed to have "nothing to do" the Mubarak family—or "with any political figure" whatsoever, for that matter. Similarly, Dina Ghabbour, chief strategic officer of GB Auto, claimed the Mubarak's did not own any share in her company.)

Christopher Davidson, a professor of Middle East Politics at Durham University in England, weighed in on the specific monetary figures: "$17 billion for Mubarak, $10 billion for his second son, Gamal, and $40 billion for the family," he said.

But Davidson also conceded that those numbers were merely estimates. He added, "Of course, by definition, bank accounts in Switzerland are a secret so we cannot get a full picture."

As to the second assumption—whether Mubarak will be stripped of some or all of his wealth - that's anyone's guess at this stage of the game.

Mubarak has claimed that he will never leave Egypt—despite both of his sons fleeing to London at the earliest stages of the crisis.

What actions will be taken by foreign governments, whether Mubarak stays in Egypt or flees abroad, remains to be seen.

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