Al-Ahram Weekly Online   21 - 27 April 2011
Issue No. 1044
Egypt
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Who has what and how they got it

While the investigation into the vast wealth of ousted president Hosni Mubarak is in limbo because of his ill health, his two sons are being rigorously questioned over shady business dealings, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

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Mubarak

The deposed president Hosni Mubarak is still in Sharm El-Sheikh International Hospital, under police surveillance and receiving medical treatment. Upon his arrest on 13 April Mubarak was questioned for only half an hour before the session was stopped as a result of his failing health. Mubarak was remanded in custody for 15 days pending further investigations. The 83-year-old suffers from heart problems while it was recently revealed that at one time he had cancer.

According to the Middle East News Agency (MENA), Prosecutor-General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud is set to summon Mubarak on 28 April to resume questioning over charges of financial corruption and ordering the killing of peaceful protesters on 28 January, the bloodiest day of the uprising that eventually ousted Mubarak, and 2 February, known as the Battle of the Camel, when pro- Mubarak thugs descended upon Tahrir Square battling pro-democracy forces.

Omar Suleiman, the former vice president and chief of General Intelligence, was secretly questioned about Mubarak's wealth on 18 April. Suleiman maintained close relations with Mubarak and is purportedly in possession of a wealth of information about secret deals that involved the former president.

Several judicial experts believe that Mubarak may be hanged or jailed for life if found guilty of ordering the killing of pro-democracy protesters. Zakaria Shalash, head of Cairo Court of Appeals, was quoted as saying that Mubarak may face execution if he is found guilty of ordering the killings of protesters during the popular uprising which left more than 850 dead.

But Shalash added that Mubarak's trial on murder charges could last up to a year. "The confession of the former interior minister Habib El-Adli, who is also on trial on charges of ordering the killing of anti-democracy protesters, could make Mubarak an accomplice," Shalash said, adding that "El-Adli has confessed before a court that he ordered firing on protesters on the orders of Mubarak.

"If these charges are proved in court, he [Mubarak] could face the same punishment as the person who carried it out and it can't be anything less than execution," Shalash explained. Shalash, however, indicated that "Mubarak may receive a life sentence if it can be proven the death of the protesters was not premeditated."

Shalash also indicated that if found guilty of embezzling public funds and peddling influence to accumulate vast fortunes, Mubarak could be given a life sentence.

On 18 April MENA said that a report prepared by the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) indicated that Mubarak, his wife Suzanne and their two sons Alaa and Gamal accumulated vast fortunes that far exceeded their officially declared sources of income. The report was sent to the Ministry of Justice's Illicit Gains Office (IGO), a watchdog which is officially entrusted with investigating the wealth of senior state officials.

According to the ACA report, Mubarak's older son Alaa ranks first in terms of wealth in the Mubarak clan, followed by the younger son Gamal, their mother Suzanne and then Mubarak the father.

MENA cited the report as indicating that the largest part of the Mubaraks' wealth was held in properties, including a number of palaces, villas, chalets, and luxurious apartments located in high- class districts Al-Tagammu Al-Khamis and Heliopolis east of Cairo, the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh and Fayed at Ismailia. The family also possessed farmlands along the Cairo-Alexandria road and huge bank deposits in Egyptian pounds and US dollars in Egypt and abroad.

Prosecutors believe they have plenty of evidence about Mubarak's enormous wealth -- including details about how Mubarak was involved in influence peddling to award lucrative contracts and real estate deals to his closest friends, top of whom is Hussein Salem, a former intelligence officer who fled Egypt after the 25 January Revolution. Salem monopolised the sale of the multi-billion dollar natural gas and oil deals with Israel via a company by the name of East Mediterranean Gas (EMG). In 1994, Salem built Mubarak a spacious palace in a large beachfront hotel complex in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. After stepping down on 11 February, Mubarak rushed to Salem's palace where he stayed until he was summoned for questioning on 13 April.

Meanwhile, Gamal and Alaa are being held in south Cairo's Tora Prison and are being questioned over allegations of financial corruption and the abuse of power. A team from the general prosecution office visited Tora to question the two about what was described as "the alleged forced business partnerships they made with foreign multinationals trying to enter the Egyptian market."

The sons of the ousted president were also questioned about their involvement in controversial privatisation bids for some of Egypt's largest formerly publicly-owned companies, as well as alleged illegal accounts and stakes they own in a Cyprus-based equity fund.

An Ahram Online investigative report revealed that Mubarak's sons have large business stakes in Bullion Company Ltd which runs a handful of investment funds, including Egypt's EFG-Hermes.

Bullion is based in Cyprus, a favourite destination for some of Mubarak's businesses. Over the years, the Mediterranean island has become a hub for money laundering operations and offshore companies wishing to avoid paying taxes in their home country.

Reports also allege that Gamal Mubarak awarded a close businessman by the name of Amr Tantawi contracts to monopolise maritime services at Egypt's main ports including Ain Al-Sokhna in Suez. It is rumoured that Tantawi acted as Gamal's business "front man" from whom he obtained huge commissions in return for rewarding him with lucrative business contracts.

On 13 April, Gamal and Alaa Mubarak were transferred under heavy security from Sharm El-Sheikh to Tora Prison on the southern outskirts of Cairo.

They joined an increasing group of members of Mubarak's defunct regime, now awaiting trial, including former National Democratic Party (NDP) secretary-general Safwat El-Sherif, the party's organisational secretary Ahmed Ezz, former speaker of parliament and ruling party whip Fathi Sorour, former prime minister Ahmed Nazif, former interior minister El-Adli and several other government ministers and regime officials.

The prosecution ordered that Gamal and Alaa be remanded in custody for 15 days, pending further investigation into charges of corruption levelled against them.

Mubarak's wife Suzanne is also set to be summoned within days to be interrogated over charges that she embezzled $145 million in banking deposits related to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Mrs Mubarak, who is currently with her husband in Sharm El-Sheikh Hospital, will be questioned over why she declined to offer statements about her financial assets throughout the years when her husband was in power and as required by the law.

Mrs Mubarak is also believed to own a palace east of Cairo, LE10 million in local banking deposits and enormous amounts of gold. "Suzanne was fond of having large quantities of gold and all officials who wanted to get political benefits during Mubarak's era knew how to achieve this -- via offering expensive gold presents to Suzanne," a senior official said.

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