Decisions are being made from time to time in Egypt to seize the assets of individuals, companies, charities, schools, hospitals, newspapers, agricultural lands and cars. At the same time, the decrees of the invalidity of their procedures are ignored.
This state of affairs has been the case since the formation of the Inventory, Seizure and Management Committee of Muslim Brotherhood Funds, which has been explicitly targeting the leadership and staff of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was overthrown by a military coup in mid-2013.
However, the work of the Committee has been dramatically expanded and reached many personalities and companies that have no close or distant relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood group. This has reached a level that raised doubts about the ruling regime’ desire to nationalise certain institutions and acquire financial assets to fill the deficit in its budget and solve its economic crises.
During the first eight months of 2014, an official source in the Muslim Brotherhood told Anadolu News Agency that the authorities had seized about “342 companies, 1107 civic associations, 174 schools belonging to the Brotherhood as well as funds of 1441 leaders at the first, second and third ranks of the group.”
Since its formation by the Egyptian government until the beginning of 2016, the Committee had seized a total amount of the Brotherhood’s funds reaching five billion and 556 million Egyptian pounds (about 695 million dollars), according to Chairman of the Committee at that time, Ezzat Khamis.
Khamis announced in press statements “the seizure of funds of 1370 people, the confiscation of 460 cars and 318 acres of agricultural lands of individuals and the seizure of 1166 associations, 112 schools, 43 hospitals, a medical association with 27 branches in Egypt, as well as 65 companies”.
Aboutrika and RadioShack
Surprisingly, the seizure decisions reached the well-known businessman Safwan Thabet and Mohamed Aboutrika. Thabet is Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Juhayna Food Industries, Egypt’s leading dairy and juice producer while Aboutrika is former football player of Al Ahly Sporting Club and Egypt national football team. Both come amid accusations of the player founding a Tourism company to be used as a front for private brotherhood activities. The football player had later denied this and obtained decrees of nullification of the procedures of seizure and confiscation that were not implemented.
The Committee, whose Chairmanship was transferred to the adviser Mohamed Yasser Aboul Fotouh, re-issued new seizure decisions in 2016 that affected 20 companies and 14 individuals’ funds, under the pretext of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 2017, the Committee had issued seizure decisions that affected 150 companies and commercial stores operating, under the pretext of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose capital exceeds 2.5 billion Egyptian pounds, according to unofficial estimates.
Among the seized companies, Karma Trading and Engineering, RadioShack, Delta RS for Trading, Computer Shop for Distribution, Mobile Shop for Commercial Agencies, Cairo Gate for Publishing and Distribution, as well as Misr El-Arabia Company.
The Committee formed the Egyptian government faced about 274 decrees of the Administrative Court of Justice invalidating the seizure decisions the Committee had issued. This has put it in great trouble that pushed it to appeal against those decrees before a non-specialised court, the Court of Urgent Matters.
The Cairo Court of Urgent Matters plays a controversial role, as it issues decrees in political cases, in which final and irrevocable rulings have been published, as well as not being specialised.
In an attempt to immunise the Committee, which has been raising widespread human rights criticism, the Egyptian House of Representatives had hastily approved a law regulating the procedures of the inventory, seizure and management of Muslim Brotherhood funds. This established an independent committee of a judicial nature, which exclusively deals with the taking the procedures related to the enforcement of decrees issued against a group, entity or person belonging to a “terrorist group”.
The Committee consists of seven members of the judges of the Court of Appeal and their provision issues a decision by the President of the Republic after the approval of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary.
The new law opened the door for the first time in front of the seizure of these funds and their transfer to the State Treasury, not only their seizure and management but also without waiting for final decrees condemning these persons on any terrorism-related charges.
In the first practical application of Law No. 22 of 2018, the Commission issued new seizure and confiscation decisions days ago, involving 1,589 individuals, 118 companies, 1133 civic associations, 104 schools, 69 hospitals, 33 websites and a TV channel.
The Commission’s decisions affected businessmen, journalists, bankers and human rights activists. However this time, the accusations developed from belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to a statement by the committee, offences include,
“providing logistic support and monetary amounts on a monthly basis to spend on terrorist activities and operations carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood’s bodies. Namely, the two terrorist movements of Hasm and Liwa Al-Thawra (Revolutionary Brigade), facilitating the two movements members’ access to weapons, manufacturing explosives and providing shelter and a haven to hide them and places to get military training.”
The seizure includes all funds, accounts and bank balances in Egyptian currency or foreign currencies, deposits of whatever type, all types of shares, securities, bonds, lands, real estate, agricultural lands and movables, whether directly or indirectly owned.
There is no final statistics about the exact total number of individuals, corporations and institutions whose funds have been seized, or the amount of the confiscated funds, which pro-regime newspapers estimated of more than 60 billion Egyptian pounds that no one knows their fate and how they are managed.