CAIRO, (Reuters) – A billionaire businessman and parliamentarian from Egypt’s ruling party has been charged with paying a man $2 million to kill a Lebanese singer in Dubai, the prosecution said on Tuesday.
The accused is Hesham Talaat Moustafa, chairman of Talaat Moustafa Group, one of the biggest and most successful companies in the booming real estate sector. His brother Tarek took over the chairmanship on Tuesday.
Shares in Talaat Moustafa, Egypt’s largest listed developer by market value, fell 16 percent to 5.21 Egyptian pounds ($0.97) and a leading broker said there could be severe fallout for the wider market.
The indictment says former police officer Muhsen el-Sukkari killed singer Suzanne Tamim on July 28 after tricking her into opening the door of her apartment by posing as a representative of the building owners and bringing her a letter and present.
“He then laid into her with the knife … cutting her main arteries and her trachea,” it said. “This was on the instigation of the second defendant (Moustafa) in return for obtaining from him the sum of $2 million for committing this crime.”
Egyptian media reports have said that Sukkari worked as a security officer at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, which the Talaat Moustafa Group built.
The indictment said Moustafa, who is in custody, “took part through incitement, agreement and assistance with the first defendant (Sukkari) in killing the victim in revenge”, although it did not say for what.
“He provided him with special information and amounts of money necessary to plan and carry out the crime,” it said.
The upper house of parliament has stripped Moustafa of the legal immunity which he enjoyed as a member, it added. The businessman is a member of the ruling National Democratic Party, which is led by President Hosni Mubarak.
Mohamed Fouad, managing director of brokerage Global Capital, said the indictment was likely to hit all Egyptian stocks.
“This will have a very serious negative effect on the company, the sector and the market,” he said. “He (Moustafa) is not just anybody. He is the head of one of the biggest companies in Egypt, one which is highly dependent on his presence.”
He added: “The scope of the effect will not be clear before we know how solid the financial situation of the company is and to what extent it can survive the possibility of him being convicted. Talaat Moustafa has a huge debt portfolio and if it went down, this could cause a credit crisis.”
Political analysts said recent bad publicity about people close to the ruling party and the fact that the crime took place abroad would have weighed in the decision to prosecute.
“I don’t know what sort of … message was sent from the authorities of the United Arab Emirates, but I think this was a factor,” said political analyst Mustapha al-Sayyid.
Diaa Rashwan, another analyst, said the decision came against the background of scandals over a 2006 ferry disaster and a fire last month in the upper house of parliament.
“There is an accumulation of catastrophes and problems and crises. If Hesham Talaat Moustafa was a sole accident, I don’t think they would treat it as they are treating it now.
“But now they are trying to sacrifice somebody from among them, because Hesham Talaat is not a stranger. Hesham Talaat is one of … the family. They are sacrificing one of the family perhaps to save the family,” he added.
Tamim, who was 30, rose to fame after wining the top prize in a television show in 1996. She married Lebanese impresario and producer Adel Matouk, who became her manager, but they later had an acrimonious divorce, media reports said.