Belal al-Nims, Secretary General of the Arab Union for Combating Economic Crimes and Money Laundering

Money - ITP Studio, Dubai - ITP Business picture by F.Fernandez - for Banking & Finance - 27 April 2006

“The Arab world loses $600bn due to increase in money laundering”

“Freezing $1.2bn belonging to companies funding terrorism”

“In coordination with security agencies, names of money laundering mafia have been identified”

“Military escalation between Egypt and Ethiopia will cause a third World War to erupt… Yet, we always resort to peace first”

“Egypt faces an extremely serious phenomenon which is money laundering,” said Counselor Belal al-Nims, Secretary-General of the Arab League Union for Combating Economic Crimes and Money Laundering and Deputy Secretary-General of The Arab-African Council. He asserted that such a phenomenon terribly affects the Egyptian economy; since the projects through which such money are channeled are always a sham and worthless, especially that real estate assets are bought for double the real price which causes the prices to rise.

In an interview with The Middle East Observer, the counselor added that after being appointed Deputy Secretary-General of The Arab-African Council, he will be working on increasing exports to African countries  Also, to diplomatically and economically resolve the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) disputes, considering the difficulty in resorting to a decision that involves military intervention under the engagement of many countries and the huge investments in the Dam.

What are the most important profiles and challenges that The Arab-African Council has to deal with now? 

The most important challenge we face is the phenomenon of money laundering; because it is a negative one that harms the Egyptian economy. Another highly critical profile is the one about terrorism and the way to drain its resources. Work on this profile starts by curbing the highly dangerous phenomenon of money laundering that has become widespread during the past years. It is necessary to establish mechanisms that would reduce money laundering. Moreover, draining terrorism resources and limiting its funding will lead to an entire elimination of terrorism in the Arab World and we will soon adopt serious actions concerning this.

We are also currently working on sustaining the Egyptian-African relations, and increasing Egyptian exports to the African countries which is a very important profile since there are no African investments in Egypt. We are working hard as well to settle the GERD disputes through diplomatic and strategic solutions since Ethiopia would not accept the decision of international arbitration.

Are there any certain losses that the Arab economies have to endure due to the expansion of money laundering?  

The losses of the entire Arab world from the expansion of money laundering have exceeded $600bn. Money laundering is a negative phenomenon that supports terrorism and crime in the whole world, and negatively affects the Egyptian economy. We have to counter it in every possible way to defeat and eliminate terrorism not only in Egypt but in all Arab states as well, in order to achieve regional stability and security.

Regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam profile, there have been calls recently for Egypt to launch a military attack…what do you think of that?   

Such decisions are not reviewed this way, but they have their own policies; for there are certain difficulties concerning the Ethiopian geographical position. We will also need to coordinate with several countries and bodies. If a decision to wage a war was taken it would not be against Ethiopia alone but against powerful military nations since they have heavily invested in The Dam. This means that the Egyptian military intervention in Ethiopia would be the official beginning of World War Three. Thus, the situation must be examined thoroughly and there must be efficient coordination bearing in mind not to undervalue the Egyptian rights.

Despite being a hard decision, Egypt has in hand all solutions to put an end to the GERD dispute and all options are on the table, including the military one that shall maintain water security in Egypt. Yet, we always resort to peace first, and we never carry out fateful decisions unless they are carefully considered. And after the provocative statement of the Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs in which he said that Egypt is incapable of going into a war against them; the Ethiopian people are now required to press its government to stop escalating the situation between both countries; otherwise Ethiopia will be the one to lose eventually.

What about the funding sources of the terrorist groups in Egypt…how did you handle it?

In coordination with regulatory bodies and The Central Bank, we have managed to identify the names and numbers of the companies that fund terrorist groups. The information we have received reveal that these companies have been paying compensations for the families of those who carried out terrorist attacks. The Central Bank has frozen the bank accounts of these companies that were estimated at $1.2bn.

What are your requests to the government? 

Our requests to the government are always to tighten controls over «the humble›› ones among the rich who work in money laundering only. I also call on it to issue a law that forbids selling or purchasing any real estates, except through the Notary Office and its branches; in order to detect tax evasion or any evasion of dues. This way the authorities would be able to collect them once they are detected through the computers of the Notary Offices. Finally, I call on the cabinet of Sharif Ismail (Egyptian prime minister) to go down to the streets and interact with the citizens to work on eliminating all challenges that the citizens have to deal with every day.




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