Spain orders extradition of Mubarak associate

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By HAROLD HECKLE, Associated Press

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish court ordered the extradition Friday of a close aid to ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak along with his son.

Hussein Salem, an ex-army and intelligence officer, had been closely linked to Mubarak since the early days of his regime three decades ago.

Salem, his son Khaled and an associate described as a frontman were arrested in a wealthy Madrid suburb in June. Salem was being held on suspicion of money laundering and corruption.

Investigators froze $47 million (euro33 million) in accounts held by Salem and police also seized homes worth $14 million (euro10 million), including seven in the southern jet-set resort of Marbella. Salem is alleged to have won lucrative land and other deals, including exporting gas to Israel, because of his close connections to Mubarak. The natural gas deal has been heavily criticized in Egypt.

Spanish investigators said the money frozen by Spain was funneled into Salem family and business accounts through a series of companies created by the alleged frontman, a Turkish citizen.

Spain's National Court placed two conditions on the extraditions. It said both cases should be heard by juries other than those which were already trying them in absentia, and both men had the right to chose to return to Spain to serve out whatever sentences they get in Egypt.

On Thursday, an Egyptian court sentenced Salem to 15 years in jail after finding him guilty of buying land on a nature reserve in the ancient city of Luxor from Egypt's former prime minister, Atef Obeid, and his deputy, who each received 10 years in jail in the case and are imprisoned in Egypt.

He was also sentenced earlier to seven years in jail for the natural gas controversy. Because Salem was tried in absentia, he will be given retrials upon his return.

In a separate case, Salem is a co-defendant in the corruption trial of Mubarak. The former president and his two sons are accused of accepting five villas worth nearly $7 million in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh from Salem. In exchange, Mubarak used his influence with the governor of South Sinai, where Sharm el-Sheikh is located, to ensure Salem could buy prime real estate in the town at a vastly reduced price to build a resort complex, according to the charges.

Salem left Egypt a week before Mubarak was forced to resign in February 2011. Egyptian protesters have pressed for the prosecution of Mubarak and his cronies due to years of alleged abuse and corruption.

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Aya Batrawy in Cairo contributed to this report.

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