Ahmed Ezz in his years as leader in Mubarak's National Democratic Party – Reuters Ahmed Ezz in his years as leader in Mubarak's National Democratic Party – Reuters

Profile: Who is steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz?

Sat, Mar. 3, 2018
CAIRO – 3 March 2018: Having reconciled with the Egyptian state after seven years of lawsuits, steel tycoon and politician Ahmed Ezz, known for his Mubarak-era corruption and embezzlement cases, is our spotlight guest.

Ezz was born to an Egyptian father, Lieutant Abdel Aziz Ezz, and a Palestinian mother, Afaf Halawa, in 1959; into a family that had “traded building materials for generations,” according to The Washington Post. Later on, when Ezz would become a political and economic tycoon in Egyptian society, his opposition would manipulate his background to claim that his mother was Jewish, which should disallow him from joining and playing in Egyptian politics, Sky News Arabia stated.

The tycoon had taken to walking with an air of superiority from a young age; he gained a strong sense of self-esteem when he began excelling at school, Sky News Arabia explained. Ezz was enrolled in one of Egypt’s leading international schools in the 1960s, and that had already guaranteed him an imbalanced playing field.

This would later on become a strong basis for the Egyptian public hating him – or wishing they were him.

“With a curt wave of her hand, the wife of one of Egypt’s richest men poses a question she already knows the answer to. ‘Who is sympathetic to the billionaire?’ Abla Ezz asks. ‘No one,’” The Washington Post wrote in 2011.

But from an early age, Ezz took a strong interest in his father’s business. He would supervise their outlet in the local area of Al Sabteya.

His father left the Egyptian army after the 1967 Naksa; at the time when the Egyptian government were carrying out a purging campaign on the army. Even though he wasn’t liable for losing the war, Ezz’s father was still barred, Sky News Arabia mentioned. Yet, his father’s close ties to late President Gamal Abdel Nasser garnered him a monthly 40-ton share in the country’s steel to distribute. Quite a substantial amount at the time.

Yet The Washington Post reports that many of his defenders would argue that the tycoon was “self-made” even though evidence points to the contrary.

“Ezz’s defenders say he deserved all the money he earned and came by it honestly. They portray the “Steel King” as a fanatically hard worker, who received no special breaks, except, perhaps, being born into a family that had traded building materials for generations. He joined the business at 19 while an engineering student, his associates say, and drove more than 60,000 miles a year to increase its sales,” The Washington Post stated.

Although it was bound to haunt him later on in life, Ezz actually had musical tendencies during his college years. He co-created a band with Hussein and Moody El Imam and Radwan and Tarek Al-Kashef, and he was the drummer. That would, later on, be used by his opposition who would claim that he was a drummer for “an eastern belly dancer”.

But Ezz’s history has favored him still. According to Sky News Arabia, in 1983, when many steel traders were being arrested for the “Fake Steel” case, Abdel Aziz Ezz, his father, wasn’t arrested. Naturally, his merchandise allowed him to create a monopoly easily. This was one of the shifts that allowed the family’s fortune to grow considerably.

Even though he had married his childhood love, Al-Sharifa Khadiga Yassin, with whom he had two daughters; Ezz was later associated with his secretary, Abla, to whom he was married for several years in secret. They later announced their marriage when they had Ezz’s only son, Ahmed Ahmed Ezz.

Perhaps the shift that truly propelled him skywards came in the 1990s, when society and the media began associating him with the then-president’s son, Gamal Mubarak, whose reputation politically was already steadfast, Sky News Arabia reported. Going forth, Ezz’s rise would be in parallel with that of Mubarak’s; the same was also true for his fall.

Starting to amass enormous amounts of money, Ezz seemed a royalty of his own. The air of superiority that he donned, believing that his perceptions were superior to anyone else’s, and that his intelligence was unparalleled, did him a great disservice with the masses. He was perceived as an arrogant bloodsucker when in 2007 he married his third wife, Shahinaz el-Naggar, a fellow party member that came from a wealthy family. The grandeur wedding, the preparations, el-Naggar’s ring size and so forth just made them seem even more like royalty, when a majority of the masses at the time were surviving on less than $2 a day, The Washington Post and Sky News Arabia explained.

Many would later accuse him, with reasonable ground, that his fortune was accumulated through political influence. “Ezz’s attorneys said that his holdings were well-established before he became a member of parliament and that he entered politics to serve the public, not to augment his fortune. His business acumen, not graft, drove a tenfold increase in the company’s share price, they argue. By the end of 2010, the market value of Ezz’s holdings approached $2 billion,” The Washington Post stated.

Of course his lawyers’ arguments soon became null and void. Ezz, after assuming a high position in Mubarak’s now-dissolved political party, would become known as the “engineer behind the passing of Mubarak’s office to Gamal,” Sky News Arabia added.

If his close association to the Mubarak family at the time wasn’t enough, his globally-voiced views would certainly do the trick. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on April 18, 2010, Ezz was asked if the emergency law used to govern Egypt at the time would ever end. He responded: “In this heightened level of security awareness in the world, every country is grappling with how better to protect its citizens, including Egypt, and it has always been controversial. You have your Patriot Act. Our emergency law is our Patriot Act. That has only and exclusively been used to either combat terror or to avert the threat of terror. In no way has it been used to suppress either political or social or economic life.”

Suffice it to say that Amanpour replied with “Oh, my goodness.”

Unfortunately, Ezz’s proximity to the ruling family only took him downhill with them when 2011 came around. On January 29, 2011 Ezz resigned from the party to dissipate some of the public’s rage, but it would not do. He was later banned from traveling the following February, and was soon after arrested.
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