[UPDATE, 2/20/11: Switzerland has frozen tens of millions of Swiss francs in assets belonging to members of the former Mubarak regime in Egypt. Bern said Feb. 18 that it had blocked "several dozens of millions of francs" belonging to figures associated with former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. On Feb. 11, just an hour after Mubarak stepped down, Switzerland ordered its banks to search for any assets held by the former president or 13 other individuals, including his wife, his sons and several of his top ministers.]
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is likely the world's richest man, with an estimated fortune of $70 billion.
Media reported Monday that Mubarak's family fortune could be as high as $70 billion, much of it in Swiss banks or tied up in real estate in New York, Los Angeles and London.
The $70 billion would put the 82-year-old comfortably ahead of Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu, worth about $53.5 billion, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the richest American with $53 billion.
According to Princeton political science professor Amaney Jamal, quoted by ABC, Mubarak’s three-decade rule in Egypt had kept him in a perfect spot to get a piece of any government action.
Mubarak, his wife and two sons were able to also accumulate wealth through a number of business partnerships with foreigners, Christopher Davidson, professor of Middle East Politics at Durham University in England, told ABC. Egyptian law requires that foreigners give a local business partner a 51 percent stake in most ventures.
Meanwhile, Egyptian press reported that investigators were looking into the hidden wealth of Mubarak's allies, which ranged from the $3 billion of party insider Ahmed Ezz to the $1.2 billion of former interior minister Habib Ibrahim El-Adly.
Five hated cronies ofeach amassed fortunes topping $1 billion, according to military prosecutors preparing criminal cases again them in the latest government concession meant to defuse the two-week-old Egyptian crisis.
Three of them, former Cabinet ministers, tried to flee the country over the weekend but were denied permission, Cairo airport sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt's largest independent newspaper.
“There was a lot of corruption in this regime and stifling of public resources for personal gain. This is the pattern of other Middle Eastern dictators,” Princeton's Jamal told ABC News.
Protesters have cited government corruption as a reason they are demanding Mubarak's ouster.
Mubarak's family wealth reportedly dates back to when Mubarak was an air force officer and in a position to benefit from corporate corruption on military contracts, mainly through business partnerships with foreign investors.
Jamal told ABC that Mubarak's assets are most likely in banks outside of Egypt, possibly in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
"This is the pattern of other Middle Eastern dictators so their wealth will not be taken during a transition, she said. "These leaders plan on this."
Meanwhile, on Monday Cairo tried to shore up one of its biggest sources of support, Egypt's civil service, by announcing a 15 percent pay hike for 6 million government workers.