Former minister acquitted of all charges

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 11 Jul 2023

Mubarak-era finance minister Youssef Boutros Ghali plans to return to Egypt after being acquitted of corruption charges, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Youssef Boutros Ghali
Youssef Boutros Ghali


Youssef Boutros Ghali, finance minister under president Hosni Mubarak and the cousin of late UN secretary-general Boutros Ghali, has told the media he will return to Egypt. “After I was acquitted of all corruption charges I am eager to come home to Egypt after living in asylum in London for 12 years,” he said.

“I am ready to contribute to Egypt’s financial sector as a consultant but I am not ready to engage in politics again. After serving as government minister for different portfolios for over 17 years and then living in asylum for 12 years, the time has come for a quiet life away from public life and politics.”

Ghali, who has lived in London since 2011, said he needs to “finish necessary legal procedures before coming home”. 

On 6 July, a Cairo Criminal Court acquitted Ghali of corruption charges in a retrial. Ghali’s lawyer Samir Al-Hennawi said the acquittal means Ghali can return to Egypt without any charges pending.

In June 2011, Ghali was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison after being convicted of ordering the use of private cars held in a customs warehouse without their owners’ consent. The prosecution alleged that Ghali illegally used 102 cars, six of which were allocated to his personal convoy and 96 to entities affiliated with the Finance Ministry.

Ghali’s lawyer filed for a retrial in the case. It began in 2020 and resulted in Ghali’s latest acquittal. In November last year he was cleared in the so-called licence plate case, and in April 2021 allegations of profiteering while in office were thrown out.

After 25 January Revolution in 2011 Ghali faced a raft of legal charges and was convicted in absentia to 25 years in prison over alleged corruption in a transaction involving coupons for the distribution of subsidised cooking gas. He was later sentenced in absentia to a further 10 years over the alleged squandering of public funds. Both convictions were quashed on appeal in November 2022.

Ghali was appointed minister of state for the council of ministers in the early 1990s. He served as minister of international cooperation between 1993 and 1996, overseeing the economic reform programme between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He was minister of state for economic affairs between 1996 and 1997, after which he was promoted to become minister of economy and foreign trade, a position he held until 2004.

Two years after Gamal Mubarak became head of the then ruling National Democratic Party’s Policies Secretariat in 2002, Ghali was appointed finance minister. A member of the inner circle around Gamal Mubarak, he became a key figure entrusted with implementing liberalisation policies.

On 31 January 2011, when the government of former prime minister Ahmed Nazif resigned, Ghali refused a post in the replacement administration led by Ahmed Shafik. In February, days before Hosni Mubarak relinquished power, Ghali and his family left for London.

Ghali’s lawyer Al-Hennawi said that, following the overthrow of Mubarak most of the charges directed at Ghali and other Mubarak-era officials had been politically motivated. 

Political analyst and journalist Abdallah Al-Sennawi told Al-Ahram Weekly that 90 per cent of the officials who faced corruption trials had been acquitted.

“But while most of the charges were politically motivated and resulted in incorrect legal convictions, the fact remains that it is the neo-liberal economic and radical privatisation policies pursued by these officials, particularly Ghali, that led millions of Egyptians to revolt against Hosni Mubarak,” he said.

Ghali is the last Mubarak-era official to be acquitted of corruption charges. Alaa and Gamal, Hosni Mubarak’s two sons, were acquitted in February 2020 of profiteering charges in a case that involved insider dealing. 

Ahmed Ezz, the steel tycoon once described as Gamal Mubarak’s right-hand man, was sentenced to seven years in jail and a fine of LE19.5 billion in October 2012 after being convicted of money laundering. Following an appeal he was acquitted of the charges in March 2018. 

Hatem Al-Gibali, the Mubarak-era health minister, was also acquitted of corruption charges, profiteering, and illegal accumulation of wealth. Housing minister Ahmed Al-Maghrabi was found guilty of profiteering, misappropriation of public funds and seizing state land in 2012, and then acquitted in 2015. Sentences against former prime minister Nazif and interior minister Habib Al-Adli were also reversed in retrials.

Safwat Al-Sherif is the only ex-Mubarak official to have a prison sentence upheld. In September 2020 he was handed a final three-year prison sentence and fined LE120 million on charges of profiteering. Al-Sherif, a long-standing minister of information under Mubarak, died in January 2021. 

* A version of this article appears in print in the 13 July, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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