Egypt: A man worth $58.7 billion

Published June 30th, 2011 - 12:08 GMT
Egyptian billionaire Hussein Salem
Egyptian billionaire Hussein Salem

The advocates of the Egyptian revolution were surprised to discover that Salem Spanish nationality would help him quit from being tried in Egypt.

Hussein Salem, one of those who fled the country after the revolution, is suspected of benefiting greatly from the ex-regime, especially from the deal to export natural gas to Israel.

He, the ex-minister of oil and other businessmen are being investigated by the Criminal Court in connection with this deal, suspected of squandering public money.

Salem, who has been released from a Spanish prison on bail of 12 million euros, is, it seems, trying his best not to be returned to Egypt.

This wealthy friend of Mubarak is one of the most mysterious businessmen in Egypt; as far as is known, he has never been interviewed by the Western press.

Salem, pampered by the former president, has been accused together with his son in a number of cases in Spain, involving corruption, money laundering, fraud and accepting bribes.

A partner of Israeli businessman Yosef Maiman in the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), which has long-term agreements to supply natural gas to Israel, Salem owns 28 per cent of this company, which has supplied gas to Israel since June 2008.

Salem owns a hotel chain in Naama Bay, Sharm el-Sheikh, where he bought much land very cheaply, because of his close ties to Mubarak and his family.

He owns the Jolie Ville Golf resort in Sharm, where Mubarak liked to stay and where he went after he resigned in February.

It was reported that, a few days earlier, on January 31, Salem had fled Egypt because of the turmoil and was caught in Dubai with $500 million in cash in his possession.

Gamal and Alaa Mubarak have been charged with accepting four villas in Sharm worth LE14 million, in exchange for using their father's position to allow Salem to buy vast swathes of land in South Sinai.

His business ties with Maiman started when they were partners in the construction of a refinery in Alexandria in the late 1970s.

Maiman sold his share in the refinery at the beginning of the decade because of internal criticism in Egypt, and started to focus on the export of natural gas to Israel.

When EMG was founded in 2000, Salem owned 65 per cent and Maiman owned 25 per cent, while the Egyptian Government owned the rest.

In July 2007, Salem sold 12 per cent of EMG to Sam Zell and David Fisher of the US for $2.2 billion; four months later, he sold 25 per cent to the Thai national oil company PTT for $2 billion.

The rest of the shares in the company are now owned by Maiman (20.6 per cent), Israeli institutions (4.3 per cent) and the Egyptian Government of Egypt through the governmental gas company EGAS (10 per cent).

According to the prosecution, Mubarak was also involved with former Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy and Salem in enabling the latter to make over $2 billion in profits by allowing his company to export gas to Israel illegally, at prices lower than the production costs.

This resulted in the State losing an estimated $714 million, which marks the difference between the price of gas exported to Israel and international prices.

Salem was also involved in an arms scandal. It was discovered that he, Mubarak and his brother-in-law were partners in a firm which transported arms to Egypt, gaining millions of dollars under an exclusive Pentagon contract following the Camp David peace treaty in 1978.

ABC news, quoting Ibrahim Oweiss, a Georgetown University professor, said that Hussein was a façade for the Mubarak family. The news website added that Salem had close ties with Egyptian Intelligence and Mubarak's brother-in-law, then a top military procurement official.

Salem pleaded guilty to the charges, and agreed to reimburse $3 million to the US Government and pay a $40,000 fine, according to news report.

According to an accord signed between Egypt and Spain, the law is not committed to bringing Salem back to Egypt, unless the Spanish authorities make a final ruling.

According to Al-Masry Al-Youm daily newspapers, Egyptian sources following the investigations in Spain said that there's no law forcing Spain to hand over Salem to Egypt.

It is thought that, if Salem doesn't come home to Egypt, many secrets about his friend, Mubarak, will go to the grave with him.

In 1972, Salem was fired by Egyptian Intelligence and spent the next seven years working in business in Dubai. It was 1979 that he and Mubarak struck up a friendship.

Salem was born in 1933 in Sinai; he belongs to one of the Sinai tribes. He began his career in the Spinning Financial Fund. His first salary was LE18, of which LE2 was deducted as tax, which went towards the national defence of Palestine.

Salem was a military man in the early days of late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser's rule, but in the mid-fifties he resigned, after he declared in his famous speech disapproval of going in war with Israel.

He was a pilot in the Air Force, participating in the wars in 1967. It was in the Air Force that he first met Mubarak.

Readers might be surprised to know that, according to the Attorney-General, Salem is probably worth a staggering LE350 (US$58.7) billion, which is about the same as Egypt's annual budget!

© Copyright Eltahir House 2019

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