Court orders detention of steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz for squandering public funds

Cairo Criminal Court ordered the detention of steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz and former head of Egypt’s industrial development authority Amr Assal for illegally obtaining steel licenses resulting in the squandering of LE660 million of public funds.

The trial was adjourned to April 4 at the request of defense lawyers.

Both Ezz and Assal were formerly sentenced to 10 years in prison, but a Court of Cassation granted them a retrial on appeal in 2012. Former Minister of Trade and Industry Rashid Mohamed Rashid was sentenced to 15 years in absentia in the same case.

Ezz, a former leader in the dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP), was one of the first Mubarak-era officials to be jailed for corruption, profiteering and illicit gains. Both Rashid and Assal were accused of illegally granting steel-manufacturing licenses to factories owned by Ezz, instead of putting them out to tender as required by law.

Ezz was fined LE660 and Rashid LE1.5 billion, and the illegally issued licenses were revoked. Both Rashid and Assal were also suspended from their public positions.

Ezz Steel was the largest steel producer in the Middle East and North Africa after two decades of acquisition and building under Hosni Mubarak and the NDP, according to Bloomberg. For many Egyptians, Ezz personified corruption under Mubarak, and his company headquarters were burned down in the uprising of 2011.

A number of Mubarak-era businessmen, including Hussein Salem and Rashid, were sentenced post Mubarak, but were later acquitted in similar cases, with many of them brokering reconciliation deals with the government involving large amounts of money.

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