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24 February - 2 March 2011
Issue No. 1036
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Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875
How the mighty have fallen
Investigations into the world of allegedly corrupt state officials are unprecedented, Mona El-Nahhas reports
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Egyptians could hardly believe what was and is happening: former top state officials being sent to Torah Prison. But it was true. Late last week, Egypt's Prosecutor-General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud ordered that former interior minister Habib El-Adli, former housing minister Ahmed El-Maghrabi, former tourism minister Zoheir Garana and former secretary of the National Democratic Party for Organisational Affairs Ahmed Ezz be remanded in custody for 15 days pending investigation.
For the first time in three decades, the public is starting to believe that the law is being applied to all and that no one is above the law.
On Monday, Mahmoud decided to refer both El-Adli and Garana to trial soon. Mahmoud addressed the Cairo Appeals Court to set a date for the trial, which is due to be held at Cairo Criminal Court.
Mahmoud also asked Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit to address foreign countries to freeze all accounts and assets of former president Hosni Mubarak and his family, which were reportedly deposited in a number of banks abroad. The Swiss government announced the freezing of millions of francs in the accounts of Mubarak and his family, while searching for other assets. Following the ouster of Mubarak, reports about his wealth were circulated, estimated at up to $70 billion.
Mubarak's legal representative presented the financial accountability of the former president to the concerned judicial authorities, saying reports about the former president's wealth abroad were groundless.
The Justice Ministry's Illicit Gains body is still examining the sources of wealth of former ministers, high-ranking officials, leading members of the National Democratic Party and MPs. Decrees made by the body in this regard are due to be announced soon.
The general prosecution is now studying reports prepared by the Central Auditing Authority regarding corruption cases in which ministers in the cabinet of former prime minister Ahmed Nazif were involved. Such reports were previously submitted to parliamentary speaker Fathi Sorour but have been shelved.
This past week, El-Adli, El-Maghrabi, Garana and Ezz were summoned one after the other. After being questioned, they each boarded a police vehicle back to prison. All were wearing the standard white prison uniform.
Since losing his ministerial post on 28 January, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against El-Adli who faces charges of money laundering and profiteering.
Worse, El-Adli was reported to have given orders to the security apparatus to use live ammunition against demonstrators on Friday 28 January, killing dozens of protesters. The ex-interior minister is accused of letting thugs and criminals out of prisons on the same day to create chaos, while deliberately evacuating the streets of security personnel.
A fresh lawsuit against El-Adli was filed this week by the sister of Major General Mohamed El-Batran, head of the prisons in Fayoum. El-Batran's sister accused El-Adli of giving orders that her brother be shot after he refused to carry out what she said was the minister's orders to free all prisoners. El-Batran was killed during a prison breakout in the first week of the uprising.
For years, El-Adli has been condemned by human rights organisations for allowing the torture of detainees in police stations and prisons, causing the death of an unspecified number.
Attempting to contain public anger, judge Mahmoud decided that the general prosecution -- not military prosecution -- will complete the investigation with El-Adli and his top aides.
Garana is accused of allocating millions of metres of state land owned by the Tourism Promotion Authority to businessmen at prices lower than its value price.
Garana helped investors in tourism, especially those who were on good terms with him, enjoy numerous financial privileges.
He also allowed some businessmen to found tourist companies without licences.
Ezz, who monopolised the steel market, which caused the prices of construction materials to soar, now faces charges of profiteering.
El-Maghrabi is accused of building a vast personal fortune by misappropriating state lands. The latest in a string of suspect deals was the sale of Amoun village in Aswan, owned by Misr Travel Company, to El-Maghrabi's cousin at a fraction of its market value.
El-Adli, Ezz, Garana and El-Maghrabi as well as fellow officials will probably not be the last to be questioned. More names are being added daily to the list of officials summoned for questioning and who may be put on trial.
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