Spanish prosecutor Dolores Delgado, who heads the judicial investigation of Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem, has said that Salem told the court he doesn't want to go back to Egypt, as he fears he will be subject to a prejudiced judgment. The fugitive is also concerned about possible human rights violations by the Egyptian authorities. Meanwhile, Delgado revealed that she tried to oppose Salem's claims by proving that he had adopted the Spanish nationality for illegal benefits, as he was living in Cairo most of the time while managing his business from there.
These comments were included in an investigative report by Egyptian television presenter Lamis al-Hadidi, in which she revealed previously unknown facts about Salem, who is known to be a close friend of the ousted President Hosni Mubarak and one of the richest men in Egypt during the former regime.
Lamis started her report by telling the story of Salem's rise to power in Egypt after he began his life as an officer in the Egyptian army. He soon moved to the Egyptian intelligence, then quit the military life having already acquired a massive fortune which he transferred to the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi. After that, he started his career as a businessman. The report said that Salem's first corruption scandal was in the late 1980s, when he was convicted by the US government of rigging the transportation fees of arms deals between USA and Egypt to gain $8 million of US aid money as the difference between the original fees and the rigged ones.
Salem managed to settle the case from Egypt by paying compensation to the US Tax and Trade Bureau. The report also said Salem's partner in the deal was Monir Thabet, brother of Mubarak's wife, Suzanne Thabet, who was Egypt's deputy military attache in the US and the man responsible for buying the US arms and supplying it to Egypt.
The report said the scandal was first exposed in the Egyptian parliament in March 1990 by MP Elwi Hafez, who associated the case to the murder of Field Marshal Ahmed Badawi, along with other 13 army officers. However, Hafez was ordered by the parliament and president not to reveal the names of those involved in the case as it was "still under investigation".
Lamis reviewed Salem's investments in the tourism sector, especially in coastal city Sharm al-Sheikh, in which there is a main road bearing Salem's name. She also followed his investments in the oil sector, as he established the "Midor" oil refinery in partnership with Israeli businessman Yossi Mimen. Shortly after, he sold his shares in the refinery making a $ 500 million profit. Salem then established the "al-Sharq" company for gas transition in the year 2000, in which he had a 65 per cent stake. Mimen owned 25 per cent while the rest was owned by the Egyptian government. This company was handed a contract to own exclusive rights of exporting Egyptian gas to Israel at a fixed price for 20 years. This deal is the one Salem is being tried for in Egypt, as he is charged of making a profit by getting Egyptian gas at lower prices than the international standard. Salem then sold 12 per cent of his shares in the company to an American businessman in 2007, before selling the rest of his shares later to a Thai company.
Lamis revealed that Salem was informed by some official reports at the beginning of 2011 that the regime was in danger due to threats of massive public protests, so he soon left Egypt in the early days of the January 25 revolution. He landed first in Dubai, where he arrived with $ 500 million in cash. He then traveled to Switzerland and shortly reached Spain, which he became a citizen of.
Salem was arrested in Spain on June 15 last year along with his son Khaled. Both were charged of money laundering Salem's daughter, Magda, was arrested too. Salem was released along with his son and daughter after paying a massive bail amount, but Spanish authorities have withdrawn his Spanish passport and put him under house arrest.
Lamis also talked to Spanish prosecutor Delgado, who said that Salem had faced court twice, first for the money laundering charge while the second was to decide on the Egyptian demand to hand over Salem to Egypt, as he is subject to trial there. Salem informed the court about his desire of not being handed over to Egypt as he fears he would face prejudiced judgment there. There is currently no extradition treaty between Spain and Egypt.
Egypt has however signed a corruption-control treaty that gives it the right to demand the hand over of Salem, while also offering guarantees of a fair trial for him.
Delgado said that Salem had the right to appeal against the approval of the extradition demand, but only after his appeal was agreed on by 20 judges, while she stressed that the Spanish government was completely committed to hand him over if the judicial decision was issued.
When asked about her impression of Salem after holding investigative sessions with him, Delgado said: "He was looking tired at the beginning, but started to get lively after hearing the questions, and he was dealing with me in a rival-like manner somehow."
Lamis also exposed the actions of the Jewish lobby in Spain to push the Spanish judiciary and the government to refuse to Salem's extradition which may be related to the services Salem did for Israel in Hosni Mubarak's era.
At the end of the first part of her report, Lamis questioned if all the billions that Salem gained due to his closeness to Mubarak were directed only to him, and the party behind the gas exportation deal to Israel. Other musings included if Salem played a role in the gas exportation deal between Egypt and Spain and whether he was rewarded with a Spanish nationality.