Why hang on when you've been in power for decades? Don't you have enough money in the bank by then to enjoy an extremely wealthy retirement? Only once you lose power will the Swiss seize your bank accounts. So staying in power protects your money.
In Switzerland, the government said it had frozen assets which possibly belonged to Mubarak. There have been unconfirmed reports he has amassed a fortune running into tens of billions of dollars.
"I can confirm that Switzerland has frozen possible assets of the former Egyptian president with immediate effect," government spokesman Lars Knuchel said, declining to specify how much money was involved.
You might ask why the Swiss held off from enforcing their law about ill-gotten gains until after a dictator was forced to give up the reins of power. Hmmm...
Last month, the Swiss froze the accounts of Mubarak's ally, ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose overthrow inspired the first protests in Cairo.
So if you think your hold on power is weakening it is time to start transferring your money to Macao or the Caymans or some other place that doesn't rush to grab your cash the day you fly away from your capital in one of your private jets.
The Mubarak family has spread their risk of asset seizure around to many enclaves for the rich and powerful.
The Mubarak family reportedly owns properties around the world, from London and Paris to New York and Beverly Hills. In addition to homes in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh and the upscale Cairo district of Heliopolis, they also have a six-story mansion in the Knightsbridge section of London, a house near the Bois de Bologne in Paris and two yachts.
Dictators obviously need to diversify their holdings and avoid Swiss banks. But they become too confident and complacent about their hold on power. In the future as China lets its currency become a global trading currency Chinese banks might emerge as safe havens for dictator deposits. Also, assorted offshore banking countries should get more attention given the Swiss sunny day friend attitude.
Update: You can tell which semi-toppled leaders are really losing power permanently because Swiss asset seizures serve as a useful measure of whose hold on power is definitely going to end.
Other dictators have lately found themselves frozen out by the Swiss as well. For instance, the government has frozen the assets of Laurent Gbagbo, the president of Cote d'Ivoire, who lost a November presidential election but has refused to step down.
So if Swiss banks start seizing your accounts you'd better get to your private jet and fly to a country that will accept you as a retiree.