CAIRO Defeated presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik flew out of Egypt on Tuesday for a religious pilgrimage, aides said, a day after a prosecutor referred corruption lawsuits naming Shafik to an investigating judge.
The lawsuits allege that Shafik, Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, was involved in crooked land deals and other graft during his time as civil aviation minister between 2002 and 2011, a judicial source said.
Shafik is one of several Mubarak-era figures to face such accusations since the leader was ousted in a popular uprising last year. Some were jailed and Mubarak himself began a life sentence this month for his role in the killing of protesters.
The state news agency MENA said Shafik left Cairo airport unaccompanied on a United Arab Emirates airline early on Tuesday. Airport officials said he was not alone - two of his daughters and three grandsons flew with him.
"Ahmed Shafik left today at dawn for Abu Dhabi and from there he will head to the holy lands of Saudi Arabia to perform the Omra (pilgrimage) before returning to his homeland Egypt," Shafik's campaign team said on his official Facebook page.
Several of Shafik's associates could not be reached for further comment.
Omar Suleiman, the former spy chief under Mubarak who was disqualified from this year's presidential election, is also in Abu Dhabi, along with members of his family, according to a person familiar with the matter.
SHAFIK DENIES GRAFT
Shafik's rival Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood was declared winner of a presidential run-off on Sunday. During his election campaign, the ex-military man brushed aside allegations that he was involved in corrupt dealings under Mubarak.
Mursi, who like many Brotherhood figures spent time in jail during Mubarak's three-decade rule, said during the election campaign that he was not out to settle scores against the ousted leader's former associates, but that anyone who had broken the law must be held to account.
Mubarak made Shafik prime minister in January last year in an attempt to end mass protests against his rule. A few days later the president stepped down. Shafik lasted another three weeks before he, too, resigned.
Shafik, a former air force commander, was seen by many as the preferred presidential candidate of the generals who have ruled Egypt since Mubarak's overthrow in February last year.
A divisive figure, Shafik was seen as an outsider when the election campaign began. But his tough law-and-order platform appealed to many Egyptians tired of endless social and political turmoil since Mubarak's overthrow.
In a military career spanning four decades, Shafik served in wars with Israel and is credited with shooting down an Israeli aircraft in the 1973 Middle East war.
As civil aviation minister, he overhauled the state airline EgyptAir and improved the country's airports.
(Reporting by Tamim Elyan, Omar Fahmy and Shaimaa Fayed in Cairo and Rania al-Gamal in Dubai; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Mark Heinrich)