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Gift scam lands Mubarak loyalists in trouble

Defendant claims case is politically motivated

Image Credit: Gulf News Archives
Ebrahim Nafae
Gulf News

Cairo: Almost two years after his ouster in an uprising, the former strongman Hosni Mubarak, his family and a dozen of his loyalists are facing corruption charges for allegedly receiving precious gifts from the leading state-owned Al Ahram press institution. Ibrahim Nafae, a long-serving chairman of Al Ahram, is accused of lavishing out gifts on the Mubaraks and senior officials in the former regime since Nafae took the post in 1984 until he was replaced in 2005. His successors followed his example until the popular revolt that deposed Mubarak in February 2011, according to investigators.

Gifts, worth a whopping 100 million Egyptian pound (around Dh 66 million) were purportedly presented to Mubarak, his wife, their two sons, ex-prime minister Ahmed Nadhif, former chief of the presidential staff Zakaria Azmi, ex-heads of the two houses of parliament Fathi Surour and Safwat Al Sherif, and several officials from the toppled regime including the interior minister Habib Al Adly. Some Mubarak propagandists in the state media are accused too.

“Investigations proved there were no justified links between those officials and the activities of the institution (Al Ahram) related to printing and publication,” said the Justice Ministry’s Illicit Gains Authority in a recent statement. “Accordingly, the behaviour of the institution’s chairmen facilitated seizing public money, illegal profiteering and deliberate waste of the institution’s money.”

The Illicit Gains Authority has imposed travel bans on 26 people, including Mubaraks, and frozen their assets pending a court trial in the case. The gifts included precious wristwatches, gold pens, luxury handbags, diamonds, gold coins, leather belts and ties, according to authorities.

Lawyers for some defendants told the court in its first hearing of the case this week that their clients have already paid sums of money equivalent to the value of the gifts they had received. The Cairo Criminal Court is to resume hearing the case on February 5.

Abdullah Kamal, an ex-chief editor of the state-run newspaper Rose Al Youssef, said he was surprised to have his name on the list of the 26 defendants. “I am the only former chief editor to be accused in this case although Al Ahram used to present its gifts to thousands of the people every year as a public relations gesture,” said Kamal, a member of Mubarak’s now-dissolved National Democratic Party.

Kamal alleged that the case against him is politically motivated. “I am afraid that the inclusion of my name in the case is due to my political stances and because I was an advisor in the election campaign of Ahmed Shafiq,” he added, referring to Mubarak’s last premier who vied in June with Egypt’s incumbent Islamist President Muhammad Mursi for the country’s top post.

“This may be also due to my recent tweets critical of the (ruling) Muslim Brotherhood and President Mursi.”

The case is the latest in a series of corruption lawsuits brought by Egypt’s new rulers against officials from the Mubarak regime.

Mubarak is already serving a life sentence in prison after found guilty of failing to prevent killing protesters during the revolt against his regime. His two sons, Alaa and Jamal, are being on trial in another corruption case over alleged insider trading.