Robert Springborg, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School and an expert on the Egyptian economy, says that throughout the 1980s U.S. officials largely turned a blind eye to allegations of bribery and kickbacks involving foreign military aid to Egypt, despite numerous complaints from American contractors, and a GAO report citing the aid program's vulnerability for abuse.
"A few hundred thousand dollars there, a million here, ten million here -- it was not considered important," said Springborg. "It was a strategic breakthrough for the United States. We'd pulled away the key Middle East actor, we got peace with Israel, what are a few hundreds of millions of dollars? That was the whole mindset."
Springborg believes that, in the end, the money the Mubarak family accumulated through corruption schemes involving U.S. aid was "small bananas" compared to the windfall they likely made helping businessman, like Salem, establish monopolies in the natural gas, steel, iron, and telecommunication sectors.
"The Mubarak family had relations with a host of different business people," said Springborg. "There has been a huge amount of money that's been picked up by various people through kickbacks, essentially to the Mubaraks."
The task of recovering that money will be daunting and enormous, says Springborg, with many of Mubarak's assets likely buried under layers of shell holding companies.
"Mubarak enlisted the very best and brightest to ensure that these assets be very well camouflaged," said Springborg. "Any attempt to get at this was beaten back with vigor."