Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – The judicial authorities in Egypt have referred former Egyptian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, along with Gamal and Alaa Mubarak – the sons of ousted president Mubarak – and 4 retired brigadier generals, to the Cairo criminal court on corruption charges. They are facing charges of wasting public money, involvement in illegal land purchases, amongst others.
Shafiq is accused of selling 40,000 square meters of state-owned land to Alaa and Gamal Mubarak at below-market prices. Mubarak’s sons are in prison awaiting trial on other corruption charges; however Shafiq has been living abroad in the United Arab Emirates since narrowly losing the first post-Mubarak president elections to Islamist incumbent Mohamed Mursi. The Egyptian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the former prime minister, and barred him from travel using his Egyptian passport.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ahmed Shafiq said “this decision is not surprising…and I expected it.” He added “I will await the official summons to take legal action.”
The former prime minister also said “what is taking place on the ground in Egypt is a tragic situation and is something that is present in all issues.” He stressed that “dealing with issues in this spirit represents a real tragedy, the objective of which is to exclude the respectable [figures].”
Shafiq is being charged alongside Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, whilst the state-run Middle Eastern News Agency [MENA] also reported that a number of others are being charged in this case, including retired major generals Nabil Farid Shoukry; Mohamed Reda; Abdel Hamid Saqr; Mohammed Raouf Helmi and Mohamed Fakhr Al-Islam Al-Sawy. The defendants have been charged with a number of offences including profiteering, facilitating the appropriation of public money and wasting public money.
Judge Osama Alsaeedy – who has been appointed by the Ministry of Justice to investigate this case – issued a subpoena for Shafiq, whilst Egypt’s Prosecutor-General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud has called for the former prime minister to be placed on Interpol’s most-wanted list. The investigative judge had previously placed Shafiq’s name on the watch and travel bans list.
The investigative judge has finished his deliberations of this case, issuing a 4,000 page report which includes testimony by expert committees at the Ministry of Justice looking into allegations of graft and misappropriation of public funds against Shafiq.
Investigations reveal that Shafiq, during his tenure as chairman of a housing association in the 1990s, reportedly sold 40,000 square meters of land to the Mubarak brothers at unreasonably low prices. The investigative judge called for Shafiq, who was a personal friend of Hosni Mubarak and the ousted president’s last prime minister, to be arrested and remanded in custody until trial.
Shafiq has repeatedly denied allegations of corruption and in a television interview last week described the case against him as “politically motivated.”
Shafiq joins a long list of more than 30 Mubarak regime loyalists, including former prime ministers and speakers of parliament, to face corruption charges. Some of these figures have been tried and convicted, whilst others are still awaiting trial.
For his part, Shafiq’s lawyer Yahya Qudri told Asharq Al-Awsat “Shafiq is completely innocent of the charge of squandering public money and there are no grounds to refer him to the criminal court” making reference to a “mistake on the part of the investigative judge.”
Qudri stressed that “Shafiq received this decision and dealt with this issue with the utmost consistency” adding “he is completely confident that he has not done anything wrong.”