* Mubarak minister, businessman jointly fined 72 mln pounds
* Court says land sale broke 1998 law
CAIRO, May 26 A former housing minister who
served under ousted President Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to
five years' imprisonment and fined over an illegal land deal on
Thursday, a judicial source said.
Ahmed al-Maghrabi was one of the first of Mubarak's
ministers to be questioned in a wide-ranging graft investigation
demanded by protesters who accused the former president and his
administration of amassing wealth at the public's expense.
Egypt's property sector, which delivered years of economic
growth and boosted investment, has been hit hard by
investigations into questionable state land sales.
Maghrabi was found guilty of arranging the illegal sale of
land to businessman Mounir Ghabbour, who received a one-year
suspended sentence. Both were found guilty of wasting public
They were ordered to return a total of 72 million Egyptian
pounds ($12.6 million) to the state and were together fined a
further 72 million pounds, the source said. It was not clear how
much each would contribute to the fine.
The state news agency also published the court's decision.
Maghrabi was minister when a court ruled last year that a
deal with Talaat Moustafa Group (TMG) (TMGH.CA), the country's
biggest developer, was illegal because the land was not
auctioned and was sold below market value. [ID:nLDE6AL0W2]
The court had said the sale was in violation of a 1998 law.
The government said it was following laws that preceded that and
drew up a plan to scrap the original contract and sign a new one
with the firm.
That contract, signed during Maghrabi's tenure, is being
contested in court. [ID:nLDE74N15I]
The government has hinted it may finalise a draft law that
will recognise land sales by direct order -- i.e. not by auction
-- carried out after the 1998 law, the newspaper al-Masry
al-Youm said on Wednesday.
The draft law would put an end to court rows and might be
submitted for approval in a few days, the paper said.
Maghrabi faces other charges of profiteering and wasting
public funds in a suit involving Palm Hill (PHDC.CA) Chief
Executive Yasseen Mansour, a relative. [ID:nLDE73513A]
(Writing by Dina Zayed and Edmund Blair; Editing by Tom
Pfeiffer and Andrew Dobbie)