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Mubarak may apologize, return money

B MATHUR / Reuters

Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak and his wife Suzanne attend his ceremonial reception at the presidential palace in New Delhi in this November 18, 2008 file photo.

Richard Engel, NBC News’ Chief foreign correspondent

CAIRO – Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is likely now wondering why he didn’t leave Egypt when he had the chance. 
 
Now, in an attempt to avoid jail time, Mubarak is expected to make a statement apologizing to the Egyptian people and announcing that he will return money and property to the Egyptian government, according to local media reports.
 
Egyptians claim that Mubarak illegally acquired billions of dollars in kickbacks while serving as Egypt’s president from 1981 until this spring’s uprising.  It is unclear how much money or which assets Mubarak will return.  

The former strongman, who has never acknowledged any wrongdoing, is now apparently being advised by a lawyer to adopt a more humble, conciliatory tone.  It would be a stark contrast to his somewhat dismissive statements before stepping down from office, which were perceived by many Egyptians to be patronizing and even threatening.  Mubarak has reportedly spoken to his lawyer at least three times in the past 24 hours, according to witnesses at the hospital where he is being held.
 
Mubarak’s statement, which could be an audio recording or just a written statement from his lawyer, may be broadcast on Egyptian state television.  It could be released as early as Tuesday night.
 
The longtime U.S. ally is currently in a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh, awaiting a possible transfer to a military hospital in Cairo.  His two sons are in prison pending their trial for corruption.
 
The return of money diverted to the Mubarak has been one of Egyptian protesters’ most consistent demands. Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, also facing jail time for corruption, has already said she will return about $3 million and a luxury villa in Cairo’s tony Heliopolis district.  She has been released from custody, but is still under investigation.
 
There are clauses in Egyptian laws that can significantly reduce, or even wipe away, corruption charges if the money is recovered. Even if Mubarak is exonerated from corruption charges, however, he still faces accusations of ordering a deadly crackdown on demonstrators during the Egyptian uprising.