Egypt Court Reverses Asset Freeze On 21 Local, Arab Businessmen

Cairo Criminal Court on Wednesday had reversed an asset freeze decree against a number of prominent businessmen that had been ordered by the prosecutor-general earlier this week.

On Sunday evening, Egyptian Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah ordered the assets of 21 people, including Egyptian, Saudi and Emirati businessmen and officials at several Egyptian brokerage firms and banks, frozen.

All those that had their assets frozen remain under investigation for alleged Egyptian stock market manipulation regarding the 2007 sale of El-Watany Bank of Egypt to the National Bank of Kuwait.

Nine of the men targeted by the freeze had been initially indicted in May of last year, including ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa; EFG-Hermes CEOs Yasser El-Mallawany and Hassan Heikal; former EFG-Hermes CEO Amr El-Kady; and four others.

Targeted individuals also included major investors in the Egyptian stock market, five of whom were from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, including Saudi investor Soliman Abanmy. Abanmy holds a 15.16 percent stake in Cairo-based Citadel Capital, an EGX30-listed private equity firm that has been ranked the largest in Africa.  

Also on the list are Saudi businessmen Abdel-Rahman Hassan and Hassan Abdel Rahman Al-Sharbatly, chairman and board member of Golden Pyramids Plaza, a listed property company that owns Cairo’s City Stars shopping mall. 

Among the Egyptians on Abdullah’s list were former El-Watany Bank top official Issa Eleish, currently board chairman at EGX-listed Maridive and Oil Services, and prominent businessman Hesham El-Sewedy.

News of the freeze sparked panic in the local stock market when it was announced on Sunday, with shares of companies and banks associated with the targeted businessmen going into a tailspin. A number of Egyptian capital markets experts, for their part, warned that the asset freezes would scare off what few investors were left in the Egyptian Exchange (EGX).