Fugitive businessman Hussein Salem, an ally of former President Hosni Mubarak, is reportedly close to reaching a deal with the Egyptian government to drop corruption charges in exchange for a multi-billion-pound financial settlement.
Salem fled to Spain during the 2011 revolution, and has since faced a laundry list of graft charges that could send him to prison for decades. He was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison on charges of misappropriation and squandering public funds for his role in a scheme to sell Egyptian natural gas to Israel at below-market prices. He also faces a 10-year sentence for illegally selling electricity.
Salem’s lawyer Mahmoud Kebeish maintains that his client is innocent of all charges, the privately owned newspaper Al-Mogaz reported, but made the latest reconciliation offer out of patriotic sentiment.
“This man loves the nation in an extraordinary way, and is eager to support the national economy,” Kebeish said.
He added in a televised interview that Salem’s health was deteriorating and he hoped to return to Egypt as soon as possible.
Spain has so far denied requests to extradite Salem, who also holds Spanish nationality. The tycoon’s assets and those of his wife and children remain frozen.
Salem has reportedly been seeking a reconciliation agreement since former President Mohamed Morsi was in office, but has so far failed to forge a binding deal with the government.
Details about the latest round of negotiations are still vague.
Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend said Saturday that a reconciliation agreement between his ministry and Salem was almost complete. Sisi specifically requested that Salem pay LE10 billion as part of the deal, according to Zend.
Salem also reportedly reached a reconciliation agreement with the Illicit Gains Authority to give up 75 percent of his assets, both in Egypt and abroad, in exchange for the right to return to Egypt without facing charges, Kebeish told the privately owned financial newspaper Al-Bawabh on Sunday.
An earlier version of the deal called for Salem to turn over LE12 billion in assets, Kebeish said, but now the final sum could be larger should Salem’s assets be valued at above LE16 billion.
In either case, the sums involved now greatly exceed amounts offered in previous deals. In August, Salem reportedly offered to give up LE5 billion in assets and LE200 million in cash in exchange for dropping the charges against him.