Egypt holds Mubarak wife in ‘illegal wealth’ probe

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CAIRO: The wife of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was remanded in custody on Friday pending investigations into the illegal acquisition of wealth, the official MENA news agency reported.

"The head of the Illicit Gains Authority, Assem Al-Gohari, has ordered the 15-day detention of Suzanne Thabet pending investigation over accusations she abused her position for the illegal acquisition of wealth," MENA reported.

A security source told AFP Mrs Mubarak could be taken to Qanater prison on the outskirts of Cairo.

Crowds of people in Tahrir Square broke out into cheers and women ululated on hearing the news of her detention.

The half-Welsh former first lady was seen as the driving force behind plans to have her son Gamal take over the presidency from his father, a highly unpopular prospect in Egypt that had sparked angry protests over the years.

On Friday, the authority also ordered a further 15-day detention of Hosni Mubarak after a three-hour interrogation of the former president and his wife.

It was the first time the Mubaraks had been questioned by this branch of the justice ministry, which is looking into allegations they used their position to acquire wealth illegally, the investigator’s office told AFP on Thursday.

Mubarak was first detained on April 13. He is in custody in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh after having reportedly suffered a heart attack when he was first questioned.

He has already been interrogated by the state prosecutor over several charges, including ordering the shooting of anti-regime protesters, and has been held under remand for repeated 15-day periods.

During the questioning, Mubarak and his wife had agreed to reveal details of their bank accounts both in and outside of Egypt, MENA said.

Mubarak was also questioned about a villa he owns in Sharm El-Sheikh worth LE 36 million (about $6 million) "without counting the cost of the swimming pool," MENA said.

He was also asked about having personal control of the $145-million bank account of the Alexandria Library.

The former first lady was interrogated about a luxury villa she owns in Cairo, as well as LE 20 million (about $3.3 million) held in a bank account, MENA said.

Mubarak, his wife, two sons Alaa and Gamal and their wives were banned from travel and their assets ordered frozen by general prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud shortly after the former strongman was overthrown in February.

The two sons, along with dozens of officials and businessmen associated with the former regime, are being detained in Cairo’s notorious Tora prison which housed political dissidents during the Mubarak era.

Alaa and Gamal had been questioned on their ties "with a company in Cyprus and one of the British Isles managing investment funds of some businessmen," a spokesman at the public prosecutor’s office said.

Both men are also accused of forcing businessmen to give them a cut in local partnerships with foreign companies.

Before the popular uprising which ousted Mubarak, Gamal, who was close to business executives and held a top post in Egypt’s ruling party, was regarded as the political heir to Mubarak, while Alaa concentrated on business.

The wives of Alaa and Gamal, Heidi Rasekh and Khadiga Al-Gammal, have also been questioned over Mubarak’s wealth.

Earlier this month, Switzerland said it had frozen 410 million francs ($463 million – over LE 2.7 billion) in funds linked to Mubarak and his associates.

Mubarak’s 30-year grip on power was brought to an end on Feb. 11 following mass nationwide protests that called for his resignation and for political and economic reforms.

The military council which has been in power since Mubarak stepped down has vowed to bring to justice all those accused of abuse and launched a sweeping probe into corruption.

At least 846 people were killed during the anti-regime protests that kicked off on January 25 and took 18 days to overthrow Mubarak. Over 6,000 people were injured in clashes with security forces and regime loyalists.

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