Court suspends top Mubarak-era official’s 5-year prison sentence

The Court of Cassation ordered the suspension of a five-year prison sentence against Safwat al-Sherif and his sons for corruption charges today, ordering a retrial in front of another constituency in the Criminal Court.

Sherif, who held several key government positions during the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, including that of information minister, Shura Council head and secretary general of Mubarak’s now-dissolved National Democratic Party, was sentenced in May to five years in prison on charges of abusing power for illicit gains.

Sherif and his son Ihab were sentenced to five years, while his other son, Ashraf, was sentenced to 10 years in absentia. The three were ordered to pay back almost LE210 million as well as a similar amount in fines.

The Illicit Gains Authority accused Sherif of using his power to gain around LE300 million during the time he spent in public office. He was convicted of owning villas, agricultural lands, and other properties across the country that were previously state-owned, as well as bribe-taking and nepotism.

According to Aswat Masriya website, Sherif’s lawyers argued that the earlier verdict did not take into consideration several items in his legal team’s defense, which led to an incorrect application of the law.

The state has recently reached reconciliation deals with several Mubarak-era officials in various corruption cases in order to repatriate some of the funds smuggled abroad during and after Mubarak’s rule.

Lately, a committee tasked with reclaiming public funds stolen by Hosni Mubarak’s officials agreed to a reconciliation proposal by the fugitive multimillionaire Rachid Mohamed Rachid — Mubarak’s former minister of trade and industry — in exchange for dropping legal charges against him and his family.

The state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported the deal on Monday without providing details or specifying the amount that Rachid has agreed to pay the state. A host of privately-owned media outlets reported, however, that the settlement amounted to LE500,000,000. Rachid had been sentenced in absentia to five years in prison after being found guilty of embezzling public funds in June 2011. In August 2011, Rachid was sentenced to another 15 years imprisonment for corruption involving the abuse of “his influence and the power of his position to generate illicit gains, amounting to some LE522 million.”

In August this year, the state’s Illicit Gains Authority accepted a reconciliation deal with billionaire petroleum tycoon Hussein Salem, who currently resides in Spain, worth LE5.8 billion in exchange for dropping charges and the lengthy prison sentences issued to him in absentia. The deal was said to be based on a recuperation of 75 percent of his wealth, but a Mada Masr investigation revealed that the deal underestimated Salem’s wealth and assets.

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