Hidden World of Corruption Revealed: The Connections between Egypt’s Government and Powerful Business Moguls

The murder of pop singer Suzanne Tamim on July 28 shook the Mideast, as questions arose about who wanted to kill her and why. As the story splashed across the front pages of the Egyptian press reporting the involvement of high-profile Egyptian businessmen, the government ordered a media ban in August.

According to CNN, the papers said that the government created the ban to protect powerful men who play a prominent role in the authoritarian president’s rule. The singer’s death could end up making bigger headlines than anticipated, revealing the link between Egypt’s government and business tycoons that have been considered above the law.

The case is also highlighting tensions between Egypt’s and Dubai’s societies; in Egypt, wealth and political power go hand in hand but Dubai is campaigning against corruption. The questions lie with which country’s approach to crime will prevail in this case.

Crime and Punishment: The Facts Surrounding Tamim’s Murder

Tamim was found dead in her Dubai apartment at the end of July. She had multiple stab wounds and an eight inch slash across her throat, according to CNN. An earlier story on CNNreported that the chief prosecutor Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud told The Associated Press that she was found decapitated.

On September 2, police arrested real estate mogul Hisham Talaat Moustafa, accusing him of ordering the death of the 30 year-old star, reported CNN. Moustafa is a lawmaker for the ruling party of President Hosni Mubarak and a senior member of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party; he was also being considered for a Cabinet post. Within 10 years, Moustafa was elevated to billionaire status, owning luxury hotels and beach resorts. He is also a major contributor to the building up of upper-class suburbs around Cairo.

Mahmoud el-Sukkary was arrested on August 6 for Tamim’s death. Egypt’s chief prosecutor said that Moustafa hired the former Egyptian state security officer to kill the singer – and his alleged former lover – for $2 million. The prosecutor said that el-Sukkary was working at Cairo’s Four Seasons Hotel, which was owned by Moustafa. He was paid to follow the singer to London and then Dubai, with the help of the tycoon, who made travel possible with visas and tickets.

On the morning of July 28, el-Sukkary followed Tamim to her apartment in the Dubai Marina complex. He gained access to her apartment by pretending to be a manager for the company that she had bought her apartment from. Once Tamim let el-Sukkary in, he allegedly stabbed her with a knife, changed out of his clothes and dumped them in the trash on his way out. He was arrested after police found the clothes in the trash and tested them for DNA; they also had a picture of his face from the security camera footage.

Dubai versus Egypt: What government will have the final say?

Many Egyptian citizens believe that their government will not punish the businessman in any way. In fact, when stories started surfacing that connected Moustafa with Tamim’s death, he started complaining about how the reports were hurting the economy; the government promptly banned the press from publishing any more stories about the murder. The action seemed to support the businessman and labeled him as off-limits.

The government stopped the Egyptian Al-Dustour daily from publishing after an article reporting the arrest of an Egyptian in relation to Tamim’s murder. Although the government never lifted the ban, the media continued to publish the chief prosecutor’s statements in relation to the case.

Dubai, on the other hand, considers the publicity about the murder to be an embarrassment. The city, which is a popular place for tourists and has a reputation for being a place where anything goes, is campaigning against corruption. The arrest of el-Sukkary was prompted by Dubai police traveling to Cairo to present their case against him; afterwards, they turned their attention to Moustafa’s involvement with Tamim’s murder.

But will corruption prevail?

CNN reported that many critics of the Egyptian government say that the arrests were only made after pressure from the Dubai police. People are also unhappy with the special consideration tycoons get when it comes to breaking the law.

The powerful businessmen dominate the government, stepping around the military figures that have been in power for years. For example, in 2005, a Red Sea ferry sank, killing 1,000 people. This year the millionaire who owned the ferry company was acquitted of manslaughter charges, despite many objections.

Moustafa is one of several business tycoons that are top ruling party officials and sits in parliament’s upper house; many of these men also hold Cabinet posts or sit on the party’s policy committee. The businessman is close to President Hosni Mubraka’s son, Gamal; Moustafa serves as a top member of the policy committee that Gamal heads up. CNN reported that Mubarak and his government have not made any public statements about the case.

The chief prosecutor said that he feels that Moustafa’s arrest may cause a split in the government between the businessmen-turned-politicians and the old military guard, who are worried about the tycoon takeover. Although the government might try to use the arrest as proof that the rich businessmen aren’t invulnerable, the chief prosecutor feels that it might only encourage people to really question what else government officials are getting away with.