File Photo: Former Egyptian soccer star player Mohamed Abo Trika looks from a bus window after his arrival at Harare International Airport in Harare, Thursday, June, 6, 2013 (Photo: AP)
Egypt’s football superstar Mohamed Abou-Treika has denied that the tourism company – which he co-owns and is facing legal action for – is linked to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Abou-Trieka said in an interview with Al-Ahram daily on Thursday, the first non-football related since 2012, that the company co-owner, allegedly associated with the Brotherhood, left it over a year ago.
“I would also like to make it clear that the case so far has not gone beyond the investigations phase,” Abou-Treika said. “Even the head of the [investigating] committee Ezzat Khamis made media statements saying there are no official charges yet.”
A government committee assigned to seize the properties and finances of members of the Brotherhood announced in a statement on Friday that they had confiscated the assets of a tourism company co-owned by Abou-Treika and others.
The committee said that Anas Mohamed Omar El-Kady is one of the company’s owners and also a member of the banned group. It said that El-Kady, who is currently detained pending trial in Alexandria, is accused of committing "hostile acts against the state”.
It also charged that the company’s funds were used to finance "terrorist attacks”.
However, Abou-Treika explained to Al-Ahram that the company was originally founded by six people, including El-Kady, under the name Nile Land Tours in 2009.
Abou-Treika then joined in 2013 and the company became a general partnership and its name was changed to Ashab Tours.
In the company’s new legal contract at the time, he said, El-Kady and four others withdrew from the company completely.
“This means [El-Kady] left the company a year and a half ago,” Abou-Treika said. “And since that day his relation to the company was completely cut off.”
“All this is documented in official contracts,” he added.
Ashab Tours is currently owned by Abou-Treika and Abd El-Kareem El-Zoghby.
The footballer, who is regarded as one of the best in Egypt’s history, said he was officially notified on 14 April of the decision to confiscate his and the company’s assets. The same happened to El-Zoghby, he continued.
Abou-Treika has the legal right to challenge the committee's decision in court.
The star footballer said that his company had funded the Islamic Umrah [pilgrimage] trips to Mecca for families of killed police and army personnel.
“What do you think?” he asked.
Hundreds of police and army personnel were killed in attacks by anti-government Islamist militants that were mainly carried out in North Sinai but also elsewhere in Egypt, including Cairo.
Abou-Treika also added that his company is “financially troubled” like most “tourism companies in Egypt since 2011”, saying he thought about shutting it down several times.
Public and private media outlets, which have opposed the Brotherhood, have regularly accused Abou-Treika of affiliation with the banned group.
The football star supported Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood, in the 2012 presidential elections, but decided to stop any political comments later in 2012 after increased media fury over his statements.
When Al-Ahram asked Abou-Treika whether he had been a “victim” of his own silence during the past period, he agreed by saying that it had allowed for the “promotion” of rumours.
Among the rumours was that he visited and financially supported the Brotherhood during their sit-in in Rabaa following Morsi’s ouster in 2013 – a claim he denied.
“Also, a photo of me with an old woman was circulated saying she’s the mother of one of the defendants in [police and locals] Kerdasa clashes,” he said. “The truth is that she is a neighbour in my home in Nahya and I met her at my brother’s wedding.”
He also said he had no relation to ex-president Morsi and never met him.
The 36-year-old Abou-Treika hung up his boots in late 2013 after leading Egypt’s most successful club Ahly to a host of domestic and continental trophies to earn a cult status among their faithful. He was also instrumental in helping Egypt win two African Cup of Nations titles in 2006 and 2008.