x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Egyptian billionaire convicted again in Tamim murder

The retrial came to a dramatic and abrupt ending yesterday as the panel of three judges issued a surprise guilty verdict that will send him to jail for 15 years.

CAIRO // It was a crime that stunned the Arab world. A glamorous and beautiful young singer found brutally murdered in her Dubai apartment and her lover, one of Egypt's most rich and powerful businessmen, in the dock accused of having her throat slit.

The retrial came to a dramatic and abrupt ending yesterday as the panel of three judges issued a surprise guilty verdict without hearing closing arguments from the business magnate's defence team. It was the conclusion of a complex tale of illicit love, money and revenge, which came to light in July 2008 with the discovery of the blood-soaked body of the pop diva Suzanne Tamim at her home in Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai.

The singer, who was 30 when she died, rose to prominence when she won a television talent competition and she went on to launch a pop career in 1996. She attended a New Year's Eve party in Cairo in 2005, where she caught the attention of the billionaire Hisham Talaat Moustafa, the former chairman of the Talaat Moustafa Group, Egypt's largest property developer. Although married with children, Moustafa began a passionate affair with the young singer, but it did not last. By 2008, she had moved to Dubai and become involved with Riyadh al Azzawi, an Iraqi-British kick-boxer.

The couple moved into an apartment in the Rimal complex in JBR on July 18. Ten days later the singer was dead. Her cousin found her with multiple stab wounds to her body and her throat slit, lying in a pool of blood at the entrance to their 22nd-floor flat. Dubai police analysis of security cameras identified Mohsen el Sokari, a 41-year-old former Egyptian state security officer, with further damning evidence coming in a blood-soaked T-shirt and jogging bottoms found dumped in a rubbish bin on a floor below Tamim's.

Police found the clothes had been sold at Mercato Mall on Jumeirah Beach Road, where they discovered that el Sokari had used his MasterCard to buy them, along with a T-shirt, a pair of Nike shoes and a buck knife, the day before the murder. Forensic tests found his DNA on the clothes. He fled the UAE hours after the killing but was arrested on August 6 in Egypt. Under interrogation, he admitted that he had been paid $2 million (Dh7.3 million) by Moustafa to kill Tamim.

Days after the murder, el Sokari went to the Four Seasons Hotel in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, which is owned by Moustafa and where the killer worked as security manager until 2004. There, Moustafa gave him the agreed $2 million fee for the killing. Unknown to the billionaire, el Sokari used his mobile phone to record five incriminating telephone calls with Moustafa. Moustafa, a key member of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party and a member of the Shura Council, the country's upper house of parliament, was interrogated upon his return from summer holiday and stripped of parliamentary immunity, then arrested.

He denied any part in the crime, blaming the allegations on "rumours from competition against our company locally and internationally". He also denied "any special relations or ties" with, or giving money to, el Sokari and said that he had "humanly sympathised with Suzanne Tamim who was going through family problems". The two men were convicted of murder in May last year and sentenced to death by hanging. They appealed and were granted the retrial, which began in April and concluded yesterday with sentences of 15 years for Moustafa and 28 years for el Sokari for murder and possession of a gun and ammunition.

They may still launch a final appeal but must wait until the panel of judges release their report explaining their verdict, which is not expected until October 27.

nmagd@thenational.ae