Fugitive tycoon Hussein Salem smuggled 450 million euros out of Egypt during revolution, claims Heikal

Ahram Online, Thursday 9 Feb 2012

Egypt's most famous journalist says the country's former intelligence chief cleared the way for Salem to bring cash-stuffed boxes into Abu Dhabi when he fled last year's uprising

Hussein Salem
Hussein Salem

Egyptian business tycoon Hussein Salem smuggled 450 million euros to the Emirates in the aftermath of the January 25 revolution, claims renowned journalist and commentator Mohamed Hassanein Heikal.

Salem is one of Egypt's richest men and had close ties with Hosni Mubarak, fleeing the country just days before the former president was forced from office in February 2011.
Salem is wanted in Egypt on multiple charges of financial corruption linked to his alleged role in the sale of natural gas to Israel at rates below market value. An international warrant has been issued for his arrest.
According to Heikal, Egypt's former intelligence chief Omar Sulieman helped Salem smuggle boxes of money by making phone calls to the Emirates and ensuring the funds cleared customs at Abu Dhabi airport.
Heikal made the claim in the 12th installment of his series 'Mubarak and His Times: From the Platform to the Square', which is currently being published in Egypt's El-Shorouk daily newspaper.
"The last time Hussein Salem was in Egypt was when he boarded his private plane a few days after the January 25 revolution began," wrote Heikal. 
"He had with him boxes filled with 450 million euros ... his flight landed in Abu Dhabi and the airport security officer noticed the boxes and knew immediately that they were packed with bills and informed the Abu Dhabi officials who decided to make phone calls to Cairo to enquire about the issue. At that time Mubarak had retired to Sharm El-Sheikh but had not yet stepped down from power."
Heikal added that phone calls were made to Sulieman who told them to release Salem and keep quiet about the episode. 
Salem reportedly asked for advice from several officials in the Emirates, including former foreign trade minister Mohamed Rachid, who was also on the run. 
Rachid, Heikal claims, informed Salem that money could be temporarily deposited in the Emirates Central Bank.
Heikal also writes about the times he met Salem during the Mubarak era, including an encounter at an embassy abroad and an invitation to a dinner Salem hosted in Geneva, Switzerland
According to Heikal, Salem talked to him about Mubarak, his wife Suzanne Thabet, and Mubarak's relationship with the arms trade.
"There was nothing wrong with Mubarak being interested in the arms trade at a time when he thought his service in the air force was almost over," Heikal claims Salem told him. "He did not know that President Sadat would make him vice-president; it was natural that Mubarak was thinking of his future and the future of his children."
Heikal also claims that Salem admitted to making a gas deal with Israel.
"Yes I made gas deals with Israel. We have a lot of gas in Egypt and can export it. I made an agreement with Israel which had political undertones," Salem reportedly told Heikal. 
"As for sending gas to Spain -- well I owe them, because they gave me Spanish citizenship and welcomed me and my family."
At that point in the discussion, Heikal claims that he confronted Salem with documents proving his involvement, as well as that of Mounir Thabet, the first lady's brother, in controversial arms deals as well as proof he was banned from entering the United States. 
He also showed Salem proof an arrest warrent had been issued for him.
Salem responded by saying "the Americans are sons of [expletive] whose first aim is to inflame Egyptian politics and to appear as if they have ways of manipulating Egyptian officials."
Most of the arms deals that took place were aimed at arming the Mujahdeen [local resistance to Soviet troops in the 1980s] in Afghanistan, Salem claimed.
Heikal also told Salem he had documents proving Salem was responsible for choosing the gifts given by Gulf Arab royalty to Mubarak's wife, Suzanne Thabet.
According to Heikal, Salem told him, "Suzie is a unique woman who has a very elegant taste. She has good relations with many Arab leaders.
She visits them and they visit her and because they are princes they gave her gifts. She also used to give them gifts. 
"But the problem is that they used to choose her gifts before coming to Egypt and that meant that she was sometimes given the same gift two, three or even four times. And so they asked me to check the gift beforehand to ensure she did not get the same one again."
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