On Sunday, the shares of Juhayna Food Industries jumped by 9.95 per cent, hours after its founder and former CEO and his son were released from prison after spending two years in pretrial detention.
Safwan Thabet, the founder & former CEO of Juhayna Food Industries & his son Seifeldin were released from prison in Egypt 🇪🇬 on Saturday after about 2 years in detention
— Saad Abedine (@SaadAbedine) January 21, 2023
Safwan Thabet, 75, was arrested in December 2020 after being accused of belonging to and funding a terror group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and assisting attacks on the army and police to destroy the economy.
Safwan was arrested by 50 armed policemen who arrived at his home in four armoured vehicles, broke in and forcibly disappeared him for four days.
His son, Seif El-Din Thabet, Juhayna’s chief executive and acting chair, was arrested months later and charged with the same offences after he refused to sign over the whole company to a military-owned business, Silo Foods.
Juhayna Dairy was founded in 1983 and began by producing dairy products and juice and later grew to include sales and logistics, and a company for managing agriculture and animal products.
It was successful. In 2020 the net profits of Juhayna Company hit 440 million Egyptian pounds, up 34 per cent the previous year.
The Egypt Fund, or Tahya Masr, was opened shortly after Sisi’s inauguration to receive donations mainly from businessmen and the Armed Forces, which are then, according to the government’s website, used to promote its activities and programmes.
In 2014 Safwan donated five billion Egyptian pounds to this fund, followed by a further 50 million, but a year later authorities used counter-terror laws to freeze his bank accounts and personal shares anyway, and then a year later froze 7.2 per cent of Juhayna’s shares.
Three years on Safwan donated another 15 million to Tahya Masr, but it was not enough protect him from arrest.
Another prominent businessman arrested at the same time as Safwan, Sayed Ragab El-Sewerky, owner of El-Taweed and El-Nour department stores, also donated ten million pounds to the Tahya Masr fund days after his arrest.
Whilst Safwan Thabet’s father and grandfather were senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Safwan’s friends have said he does not have ties to the group and is not involved in political activity.
Still, he and his son were held in solitary confinement at the notorious Scorpion Prison in conditions amounting to torture and in March last year Safwan’s wife, Bahira Elshawi, died in hospital without her husband and son despite making a video plea to President Sisi to ask for their release.
It is a clear, prominent example of Egypt’s practice of arbitrary arrests without serious legal proceedings, and its abuse of counter terror laws.
Last week the son of businessman and former senior leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan Malik, called on Egyptian authorities to release his father.
Malik, whose ventures spanned textiles, electrical supplies, and furniture, had his assets frozen in a decision upheld by a Cairo criminal court in 2014. He was arrested a year later and accused of “exacerbating the instability of the dollar exchange rate.”
This month Mohamed Al-Amin, who founded CBC network was arrested at the same time the founder of Al-Mehwar TV, Hassan Rateb, was on trial.
It’s not just the top businessmen either. Other less known businessmen and women have been targeted by the regime and added to Egypt’s national terror lists, had their assets frozen, property confiscated and factories shut down.
According to a 2021 report by the Committee for Justice, businessmen are targeted by authorities, for the purposes of “obtaining economic gains and expanding the economic share of the Armed Forces in the local Egyptian market.”
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.