Safwat al-Sherif, sons sentenced to 5-10 years in prison for illicit gains

A Cairo court sentenced former Information Minister Safwat al-Sherif and his son Ihab al-Sherif to five years in prison on Saturday, and sentenced his other son Ashraf al-Sherif, who has fled the country, to 10 years imprisonment for illicit gains and abusing power for personal gain.

North Cairo Criminal Court ordered the three men to pay back LE304 million to the state, and fined them the same amount.

Safwat al-Sherif and his son Ihab did not appear in court for the sentencing, while Ashraf al-Sherif remains wanted by Interpol.

According to the charges leveled against them in 2012, Safwat al-Sherif acquired LE304,674,552 in illicit gains for his family in his capacity as head of the State Information Service (SIS), head of the board of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), head of the Shura Coucil and secretary general of the disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP).

The charges were based on a memo by the Justice Ministry’s Illicit Gains Authority, which states that Safwat al-Sherif helped his sons amass LE150,336,000 in illicit gains by granting their advertising agencies contractual privileges. The agencies were contracted by the ERTU and the Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC).

According to the charges, Safwat al-Sherif received “gifts” from state newspapers Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar and Al-Gomhurriya worth LE3,408,578 in return for keeping board heads in their positions after they reached retirement age. He also acquired LE45,252,732 from sources the Illicit Gains Authority was not able to identify.

Safwat al-Sherif, who was born in 1933, worked closely with ousted President Hosni Mubarak during his tenure as minister of information from 1982 to 2004. He previously worked as a military intelligence officer until he was tried in 1968 in a high-profile case involving intelligence officers following Egypt’s defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

During Mubarak’s final years, Safwat al-Sherif was the secretary general of the NDP until Mubarak removed him in February 2011 to appease the public during the January 25 popular uprising.

Sources at the Illicit Gains Authority have revealed in media statements recently that the authority refused to strike a reconciliation deal with Safwat al-Sherif and his sons, “because they insisted on reconciliation in certain cases and not others.”

Safwat al-Sherif had submitted a reconciliation request whereby he would pay back LE20 million for land and property he had illegally acquired.  

Mubarak-era figures involved in corruption cases continue to seek reconciliation by paying back some of their wealth to the state treasury. According to Mahmoud Kabeish, fugitive tycoon’s Hussein Salem’s lawyer, Salem paid 75 percent of his fortune to the state, equivalent to LE5,700,000,000.

The lawyer explained that the Illicit Gains Authority will announce the reconciliation deal soon, after Salem’s asset freeze is lifted.

The most prominent reconciliation deals with Mubarak-era figures involved in corruption cases include that of Mahmoud al-Gammal, Gamal Mubarak’s father-in-law, who paid back LE238 million to the state, as well as that of businessman Gamal Halawa, who gave up an Alexandria property worth LE5 million.

The Illicit Gains Authority also struck reconciliation deals with Mounir Thabet, Suzanne Mubarak’s brother, after he paid back LE3 million to the treasury, as well as former Housing Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Soleiman, former Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy, businessman Ahmed Ezz, former Tourism Minister Zoheir Garrana, and former Parliament Speaker Fathy Sorour, among others.

In August 2015, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi amended the illicit gains law, opening the door for reconciliation deals in corruption cases through requests submitted by defendants, their lawyers or their heirs pledging to pay back the amount in question. Parliament ratified this law in January.

Reconciliation deals involve annulling the criminal case and lifting all precautionary measures, such as asset freezes or travel bans, as well as repealing the sentence.

Alongside a reconciliation deal, Safwat al-Sherif and his sons also have a chance to appeal the verdict.

Safwat al-Sherif was arrested in April 2011, but was released in February 2013 after he served the maximum period allowed for pretrial detention. 

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