x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Crackdown on Egyptian business

EFG-Hermes, the biggest publicly traded bank in Egypt, is the latest casualty of a crackdown on businessmen and companies in the country that have alleged links to the former Mubarak government.

An Egyptian soldier climbs the stairs outside of Egypt's central bank. Shawn Baldwin / Bloomberg
An Egyptian soldier climbs the stairs outside of Egypt's central bank. Shawn Baldwin / Bloomberg

Cairo // EFG-Hermes, the biggest publicly traded bank in Egypt, is the latest casualty of a crackdown on businessmen and companies in the country that have alleged links to the former Mubarak government.

Yesterday, Yasser El Mallawany, a co-chief executive of EFG-Hermes investment bank in Egypt, was prevented from flying abroad from Cairo International Airport.

There was no official reason given for the move, other than the need for Mr El Mallawany to help with unspecified investigations into bank business. In the past year, however, the bank has been scrutinised for its alleged association with former president Hosni Mubarak's younger son, Gamal, who owns indirectly 18 per cent of the investment bank's subsidiary EFG-Hermes Private Equity.

Mr El Mallawany told The National last night, however, that the bank has no relationship with the former president's son.

"Gamal's stake is indirect, through a fund management company called Bullion," he said.

"We have no direct relationship with him."

EFG-Hermes is not the first Egyptian company to face scrutiny.

Last year, a wave of travel bans was put in place as investigators probed corruption allegations against several business leaders and government officials after the popular uprising. The chairman of private-equity firm Citadel Capital, Ahmed Heikal, was ordered not to travel as investigations took place into Citadel relating Mr Heikal with former prime minister Atef Obeid over allegations of involvement in embezzlement of public money and profiteering.

Egypt's public prosecutor subsequently removed Mr Heikal's name from the list of people banned from travelling, Citadel said in July.

The central bank of Egypt has also had to fend off allegations it is holding billions of dollars in secret accounts in Mr Mubarak's name.

Last month, the central bank issued a statement denying local media reports that Mr Mubarak had put more than US$9 billion (Dh33.05bn) in three secret central bank accounts.

An official from the central auditing agency, which checks the government's accounts, told Egyptian media that $8.7bn was deposited in the first of Mr Mubarak's personal accounts in 1992. But the central bank, reiterating that all funds related to Mr Mubarak and his family have been frozen since February 28 last year by the order of the country's general prosecution, said in a statement that this money was originally deposited in a state account titled "Amounts Received from Arab States".

The bank also said the money was added to the international reserves balance, and was invested in deposits with foreign banks and in US treasury bills. With interest, the money grew to $8.82bn by December 31, and is still kept with the bank in the name of the state, the central bank said.

Meanwhile, Egypt has been scrutinising the operations of local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and in December raided the offices of 17 NGOs and banned some foreign staff from leaving the country.

Sam LaHood, the son of the US transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, is among the Americans who have been referred for trial by Egyptian authorities after investigations into foreign funding of NGOs working in the country, according to a statement read by judge Ashraf El Ashmawy, Bloomberg News reported.

The younger LaHood is among more than 40 activists in Egypt accused of operating unlicensed NGOs and receiving illegal funding.

business@thenational.ae

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