CAIRO — A criminal court convicted former President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday of embezzling millions of dollars of public money for his personal use in private homes and palaces in a case that rights advocates say could now implicate the current prime minister and spy chief as well.
After his conviction by the three-judge court, Mubarak, who is 86 and living in a military hospital overlooking the Nile, was sentenced to three years in prison. His sons, Gamal and Alaa, were each sentenced to four years for their roles in the embezzlement scheme. The court ordered the three to pay penalties and make repayments totaling more than $20 million, apparently in addition to $17 million they have already repaid.
The former president received a life sentence in a separate case two years ago, for directing the killing of hundreds of protesters during the uprising that ended his rule in 2011. But the presiding judge acknowledged at the time that the evidence was thin, and an appeals court threw out the conviction and ordered a retrial. Mubarak is expected to appeal the latest verdict as well, although the evidence in this case — including more than a thousand original and forged receipts as well as the testimony of participants in the fraud — is far more substantial.
Mubarak “gave himself and his sons license to embezzle public funds, helping themselves without oversight or consideration,” Judge Osama Shaheen said in announcing the verdict Wednesday. “Therefore, they deserve to be punished.”
Whether Mubarak remains in the military hospital by his own choice or under a form of detention is unclear, and there were no signs of his immediate transfer to prison Wednesday.
But the new conviction may spare the government installed last summer by the country’s defense minister, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a potential embarrassment: the chance that Mubarak might walk the streets a free man again. Sissi, who resigned from the military in March to run for president, is poised to win next week’s election, and critics accuse him of returning Egypt to Mubarak-style autocracy.
Sissi has instead sought to portray his rise to power as an extension of the 2011 uprising and has vowed not to allow a return of the corruption that flourished during Mubarak’s three decades in power.
But Mubarak’s conviction could create problems for other high-ranking Egyptians. Under the scheme, prosecutors say, public funds were diverted with the complicity of the state-run construction company, the Arab Contractors. Its chairman at the time was Ibrahim Mehlib, who is now prime minister of the government Sissi installed. And a corruption investigator who built the case has filed a lawsuit alleging that his former boss — General Mohamed Farid el-Tohamy, once a high-ranking corruption watchdog — suppressed the inquiry and covered up the evidence. Tohamy, a mentor to Sissi during his army career, is now the new government’s chief of general intelligence.
The court convicted Mubarak and his sons Wednesday of embezzling more than $17 million over eight years, ending in 2011.
In court filings, the prosecutors accused the Mubaraks of fraudulently billing the government for personal expenses, including utility bills, interior design, landscaping, and home furnishings for a variety of private homes as well as a public palace that was fraudulently transferred to their ownership.