Mubarak-era steel tycoon and politician Ahmed Ezz will pay LE 1.7 billion, of which LE 600,000 million were already recovered from abroad, as part of a reconciliation deal with the Egyptian government, Egypt’s Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek said in a statement on Wednesday.
The reconciliation came in accordance with the new Reconciliation Law amendment of article 18b of the criminal procedure law, issued in October 2015. The amendment stipulates that it is permissible to reconcile with defendants accused of criminal offenses and misdemeanors punishable by law after the payment of a fine; the government would receive smuggled money in exchange for dropping the charges the defendants face.
Shortly after the outbreak of the 2011 revolution, Ezz was sentenced to prison over corruption lawsuits regarding iron licenses, money laundry, the misuse of public funds, amounting to LE 660 million ($36.9 million); yet most of the verdicts against him were later overturned.
Facing trials for over three years in several cases,Ezz was released from prison on bail in 2014. Ezz served as the secretary-general of former president of now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) under former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule. He also acted as the spokesperson of the then ruling NDP in the Parliament between 2005 and 2010.
In November 2012, Ezz was referred to Cairo Criminal Court by former Prosecutor-General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud on charges of laundering nearly LE6.5 billion (approximately$1.06 billion), which he is accused of having raised through illicit profiteering, and the illegal appropriation of public funds, in deals related to his acquisition of Ezz El-Dekheila (EZDK) steel plant.
Cairo Criminal Court handed Ezza seven-year sentence and fined him LE19.3 billion ($3.1billion) after being found guilty of laundering. In May 2013, Egypt’s Court of Cessation ordered Ezz to be retried, after he successfully appealed his conviction and cancelled the rules issued against him.
Also, in March 2013, Ezz was sentenced to 37 years in prison and fined LE 2 billion by the Criminal Court for profiteering and squandering public funds.In December 2013, the Court of Cessation overturned the ruling and ordered a retrial.
Ezz has also received 10 years in prison and LE 660 million fine in September 2011 in the “Dekheila steel case”, where he faced charges of squandering public funds and illegally acquiring the Dekheila steel plant.A year later the Court of Cessation ordered his retrial.
On March 2017, the Cairo Criminal Court ordered the arrest of Ezz pending his retrial on charges for the “illegal sale of steel licenses.”The court had set April 4, 2017, as the trial date.
Before the retrial, Ezz requested a reconciliation with the government in the case. The deal was reached between him and the National Committee, which is tasked with restoring smuggled money from abroad,to retrieve state funds.
Ezz offered to turn in LE 660 million ($37 million) in exchange for dropping the case of squandering public funds of Dekheila Steel Company and removing him from the travel-ban list.
Ezz has earlier paid a bail of LE 25,000 ($14,059). Defending himself before the Public Prosecution,Ezz stated,“I will reconcile with Egypt and I will be buried here.”
Ezz Steel controls some 50 percent of Egypt’s steel market. In 2009, the company was cleared of any violations of the monopoly law by the Egyptian Competition Authority.
Reconciliation with Mubarak-era officials
New amendments to the Illicit Gains Authority law passed during 2015 gave defendants listed in the assets-freeze an opportunity to reconcile with the state. It was mentioned that in return for reconciliation with the state, all the charges against them would be dropped.
The new amendments presented a good opportunity for several Mubarak-era figures and businessmen; however, not all of them succeeded to meet the mentioned criteria by the state.
Last June, former Trade Minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid, whose assets were frozen upon investigations, returned to Egypt from Italy after reconciling with the government.
In March 2017, Rashid’s lawyer, Ashraf AbulKheir, said in statements to Egypt Today that the Egyptian authorities had lifted the freeze on the assets of his client and his family – both inside and outside Egypt – and his name had been removed from the travel ban list.
AbulKheir confirmed that Rashid will be able to return to Egypt anytime and can travel freely.
All criminal charges against Rashid were dropped following a reconciliation deal with the government that was approved in November. The deal required Rashid to pay nearly LE500 million ($28 million) to the government.
Also, in July 2017, Spanish-Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem arrived in Cairo from Spain after reaching a reconciliation agreement with the government.
He was accused of profiting from his relationship with ousted President Mubarak and exporting gas to Israel for less than the global price in order to achieve personal benefits.
The Egyptian authorities had announced reconciliation with Salem under the condition that he gives up 75 percentof his properties, which are worth more than LE5.8 billion.
According to data released by the IGA, 37 out of 93 requests for reconciliation deals from businessmen, investors, Mubarak regime figures, and former public servants have ended in settlements since the legal amendments to regulate cases involving the misuse of public funds or illicit gains were introduced in 2015, according to Al Ahram Weekly.
According to the IGA, the state has reclaimed LE5.677 billion in settlements other than that of Salem.
Many politicians and human rights advocates criticized the Reconciliation law, asserting that reconciliation with these figures undermines the rule of law. They wondered how people who embezzle public funds can simply get away with their crimes through paying money.