Bail Set for Billionaire Accused of Corruption With Mubarak
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MADRID -- Spanish judges set bail of more than $38 million on Friday for a billionaire and friend of former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
The billionaire, Hussein K. Salem, was arrested in Spain this week in what was considered a breakthrough for Egyptian prosecutors. They are seeking his extradition to try him in corruption cases relating to what they say are sweetheart deals that enriched him and Mr. Mubarak.
The Spanish charges of money laundering, fraud, bribery and corruption are related to the use of money that Mr. Salem is accused of obtaining illegally in Egypt, the police in Spain said.
The case is closely tied to accusations of corruption against Mr. Mubarak and other former officials ousted in Egypt's revolution in February, and could open a window on Mr. Mubarak's hidden foreign holdings, which are thought to exceed several billion dollars.
Egyptian prosecutors filed charges against both men last month, part of an effort by the transitional government to show that it is stamping out the corruption associated with the former government.
Mr. Salem, 77, left Egypt a week before Mr. Mubarak was forced to resign. Mr. Mubarak is under house arrest in Egypt, and is expected to face trial on corruption and other charges in August.
In one case, Mr. Salem is accused of squandering public funds by siphoning $714 million in public money out of a deal to sell natural gas to Israel. Prosecutors said Mr. Mubarak allowed a company in which Mr. Salem was a major shareholder to buy gas from the government below market price. Mr. Salem's company may have then resold the gas to Israel at a substantial markup, enriching himself at the public's expense.
It was unclear whether Mr. Mubarak personally benefited from the deal. The sale of gas to Israel raised widespread public outcry in Egypt, where the popular perception was that Israel received the special deal, cheating Egypt out of $714 million in profits.
The other Egyptian allegation was that Mr. Mubarak allowed Mr. Salem to buy a large tract of prime land on the Red Sea coast from the government at a steep discount. In return, the prosecutors said, Mr. Salem provided the Mubarak family with five luxury villas, including Mr. Mubarak's 161,000-square-foot seaside estate at Sharm el Sheik, worth about $4.5 million, where he now lives under house arrest.
On Friday, Mr. Salem appeared before two Spanish judges, one concerning the money-laundering charges, the other on Egypt's extradition case. Mr. Salem also holds Spanish citizenship, which could complicate the latter case.
After questioning, he was hospitalized in police custody with neurological problems, The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Salem was detained Wednesday at his villa in Marbella, Spain, the Egyptian news agency MENA reported.
First Published June 18, 2011 12:01 am