The 90-year-old Egyptian billionaire Hussein Salem – Reuters
CAIRO – 22 August 2017: Billionaire Hussein Salem was convicted of the illegal acquisition of 35 state owned feddans (1 feddan = 1,025 acres), money laundering, and other corruption cases by Egyptian courts following the January 25 Revolution. A reconciliation deal saved the 90-year-old businessman 22 years in prison.
He was also accused of profiting from his relationship with ousted President Hosni Mobarak, and exporting gas to Israel for less than the global price to make personal benefits.
The trials of Salem:
Salem, who fled to Spain after the January 25 revolution, started negotiations with authorities in 2015 to drop charges of corruption in return for repaying a fraction of the funds he is suspected to have embezzled.
The Illicit Gains Authority (IGA) made a 19-page report of all Salem’s properties and released it on April 20, 2011. According to the report, Salem was worth LE 350 billion ($19.5 billion) in owned hotels and factories, conference organizing, travel, agricultural land environment development, desalination companies and oil and energy investments.
The reconciliation agreement entailed that Salem would give back to the state LE 5.7 billion constituting 75 percent of his wealth value of LE 7,122,466,733, according to Al-Ahram newspaper. The Egyptian billionaire had already returned LE 4.280 billion by 2016.
However, the Public Prosecution was still freezing his assets in Egypt which were in the value of $1.7 billion because the settlement was with the IGA, while the Public Prosecution was in charge of the money laundering and exporting gas to Israel lawsuits.
The reconciliation processes were concluded in July. Recently, Salem has been in Egypt where he stayed for five days; paying Sharm el- Sheikh a two-day visit before he returned to Madrid on July 26.
On Tuesday, the billionaire, who was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for money laundering in October 2011, was cleared along with his son Khaled and his daughter Magda.
On May 18, the Cairo Criminal Court acquitted Salem in the retrial of his case of exporting gas to Israel, as he was sentenced to a 15 year imprisonment in absentia after being found guilty for profiting from the gas deal in June 2012.
On March 30, the Egyptian authorities unfroze Salem’s assets inside and outside Egypt; the decision to unfreeze his assets came in a February court ruling.
Salem’s Lawyer’s statements:
His lawyer Mahmoud Kebeish, who was also the former dean of law school at Cairo University, said in an interview in January that his client had never taken loans from banks, or bought any lands in lower prices than their market values.
Kebeish stressed that his client was among the very first investors in Sharm el- Sheikh. He stressed that there was no single proof that his client received any illegal privileges.
The lawyer added that reconciliations are common in the aftermath of revolutions as most accusations are groundless to satisfy the masses, which was the case for his client.
Kebeish explained that the state cannot recover any money from abroad without the consent of the owners, and that reconciliations make possible recovering a part of that money consensually.
He added that there had been rumors that the committee in charge of recovering the money had spent LE 120 million but all its efforts went in vain.
In October 2016, judicial sources revealed to the press that Switzerland, Spain and Hong Kong cancelled out the hold on Salem’s family accounts upon the decision of Egyptian judiciary. The Interpol had also removed their names from Red Notices.
Salem and his children in same interview:
In a TV interview with Amr Adib in October 2016 when he was still in Spain, Salem said that he loved Egypt, and that he would return once the crisis is over. He added that he was not optimistic as the lawsuits had lasted for more than six years.
Salem said that he would not publish his diaries because he had no secrets, and that he had never assumed a political position affirming that he had never had the power that the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood made people think he possessed.
“People have a wide imagination,” Salem said expressing his hatred for the Brotherhood, Qatar, Turkey, and the United States.
Salem stated that Egypt has been on the right track and that he would do anything for the sake of Egypt. He added that he gave up a portion of his wealth by law which should set him and his family free.
Salem said that he had no friends in Egypt and that he is not in contact with anybody there.
He accused the Brotherhood and Qatar of being the reason behind what happened to him as they talked about his wealth in Tahrir Square during January 25 Revolution and that Al-Jazeera’s presenter Ahmed Mansour stated certain groundless allegations.
Salem declared that post reconciliation, he only owns LE 147 million, and that his resort in Sharm el- Sheikh Maritime Jolie Ville is owned by his children Khaled and Magda.
The billionaire cried as he unveiled that his family house was seized by the state. “They left nothing for us. All I think about now is my illness,” Salem said. He added that he can no longer eat Egyptian food.
In the same interview, Salem suggested running flights between Cairo, and Rome and Petersburg in order to improve tourism.
The billionaire said that he is not upset with Mubarak for not calling him, and businessmen who belonged to his regime are still living in Egypt although they did not give up as much assets as he did.
His daughter Magda refuted the term “reconciliation” as her father was not a criminal. She views it as a donation out of gratefulness for the country where they earned that wealth.
She confirmed that the family is living on loans, and that her father suffers from heart, liver, and back diseases. “We consider ourselves subject to injustice,” Magda said.
Salem’s son Khaled said that they bought certain houses in Spain before the year 1996 and that they were prohibited by the Spanish state from selling or renting them.
He stated that his father’s innocence was proved in 85 percent of the lawsuits against him, and that Egyptian authorities had been putting obstacles against them.
“All those who had been unjust to us by fabricating such accusations know themselves very well. We have been begging for six years. I had to borrow money to bury my son,” Khaled stated.
The properties kept by Salem
Salem kept Movenpick Jolie Ville stretching on 131 feddans in El-Temsah Island in Luxor in addition to his shares in the East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) founded in 2002, which has achieved revenues of $531 million till 2011. He also kept a villa in 6th October City, a villa in Sharm el- Sheikh, and a building in Almaza neighborhood in Cairo.