Doubts over the transparency of investigations into corruption perpetrated by former regime figures had to be reassessed when ousted president Hosni Mubarak and both of his sons were ordered to be remanded in police custody for 15 days. This caps similar rulings against the figureheads of Egypt’s former ruling regime.
With the January 25 Revolution in full swing, legal proceedings were undertaken against a number of former high-profile governmental officials, including steel magnate Ahmed Ezz and Zuheir Garana, the ex-minister of tourism. Both men were detained and had their assets frozen in an attempt at self-preservation by the Mubarak regime.
Once a prominent National Democratic Party member and chairman of Parliament’s budget committee, Ezz is held responsible for monopolizing the steel market, causing real estate values to constantly fluctuate. It’s also understood that the diminutive man played a major role in the flagrant rigging of the parliamentary elections in 2010.
The trial of Habib El-Adly, interior minister from 1997 till 2011, also got underway in the wake of the 18-day revolt that led to Mubarak’s ouster. El-Adly was indicted on money-laundering charges and, more significantly, for ordering the killing of protesters in the early days of the revolution as well as creating a security vacuum in the country. Under El-Adly, the ministry of interior routinely covered up torture practiced by the police and security forces.
Several other members of the Mubarak clique, however, remained untouched for weeks, which brought into question the integrity of the prosecutor general and made the likes of Ezz and El-Adly come across as scapegoats in a scheme designed to protect the more powerful oligarchs of the former regime.
Ex-speaker of parliament Fathi Sorour as well as Safwat El-Sherif and Zakaria Azmi, former heads of the Shura Council and Mubarak’s office respectively, were among the regime cronies who seemed immune. The ageing trio are believed to be even more corrupt than Ezz and El-Adly.
El-Sherif, who was also minister of information in the early years of Mubarak's rule, is widely considered to have been the former president’s top enforcer in corrupting the nation's body politic in favour of the regime’s interests.
Sorour also used his position as speaker of Egypt’s Parliament for 20 years to accrue huge wealth. The 79-year-old is alleged to have abused his role to amass a large portfolio of prime real estate, villas and apartments. He is also held responsible for tailoring laws that many view as effectively legalising corruption, not to mention introducing constitutional amendments in 2007 that strengthened the regime’s hold on power.
Azmi is widely understood to have used a number of businessmen as “henchmen” to secure his illegal gains. One of these is Mamdouh Ismail whom Azmi helped to monopolize maritime passenger transport between Egypt and Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea. In 2006 Azmi is thought to have helped Ismail escape Egypt after one of his ships – Al-Salam 98 – sank into the Red Sea drowning more than 1300 Egyptians making the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Infamous trio Sorour, El-Sherif and Azmi were arrested only after fresh demonstrations over the past weeks brought about a clampdown that spared almost none of the Mubarak inner circle.
The protests, which were accompanied by severe clashes with military forces last weekend, was strong enough to later prompt the same ruling against three of the Mubarak family: the father and both of his sons.
Mubarak is said to have turned a blind eye to the widespread corruption that raged through his 30-year tenure, especially when his erstwhile heir apparent Gamal entered politics and his elder son Alaa “embarked” upon a number of significant business deals.
After the order for their detention was returned, Gamal was escorted – reportedly in complete shock – with his elder brother Alaa to Tora Prison, where the majority of the former regime henchmen currently reside, including former prime and housing ministers Ahmed Nazif and Ibrahim Suleiman.
The eighty-two-year-old Mubarak was transferred to Sharm El-Sheikh International Hospital for observation. His wife Suzanne, meanwhile, has been summoned for questioning over financial irregularities in relation to the Alexandria Library and annual Reading for All festival.