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Home News Egypt dissident fights extradition from Spain for fraud

Egypt dissident fights extradition from Spain for fraud

Published on 21/07/2020

Cairo is seeking the extradition from Spain of an Egyptian businessman and dissident, the justice ministry said Tuesday, on grounds of fraud and money-laundering that he claims are politically motivated.

The Egyptian embassy had in 2019 filed a request for the extradition of Mohamed Ali, who has been living in Barcelona for two years, with his case “pending resolution” at Spain’s National Court, the ministry told AFP.

According to court documents seen by AFP, Egyptian prosecutors say he is guilty of tax fraud to the tune of 135 million Egyptian pounds ($8.4 million/7.4 million euros) and of laundering some 4.0 million Egyptian pounds.

The allegations relate to the purchase and sale of property and vehicles between 2006 and 2018.

Since arriving in Spain, this 46-year-old construction contractor who worked for the Egyptian army for 15 years before fleeing — has posted a string of online videos denouncing corruption within the regime of strongman President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

His posts racked up millions of views and in September, briefly sparked a wave of small-scale but boisterous demonstrations by hundreds of people across Egypt.

Earlier this month, Ali appeared by video-link before an extradition judge at Spain’s National Court who decided to hold another hearing at a later date, judicial sources said.

– ‘Sisi wants revenge’ –

Convicted in absentia of tax evasion by an Egyptian court in December, Ali insists all such allegations are “false” and politically-motivated.

“There is nothing in these accusations… my company has always paid its taxes,” he told AFP.

“Since I began making videos to expose corruption within the Egyptian regime … I know Sisi wants revenge in some form.”

Contacted by AFP, the Egyptian prosecutor’s office did not comment.

However, a security source confirmed investigators were “looking for Mohamed Ali and had notified Interpol to that effect”.

In his online posts, Ali repeatedly accused Sisi and the military’s top brass of corruption and wasting taxpayers’ money on vanity projects.

Although he has yet to produce any concrete evidence, Ali flagged specific palaces and villas in Cairo and Alexandria that Sisi commissioned him to build.

His anger struck a chord with Egyptians who have struggled with austerity reforms since 2016, bringing hundreds onto the streets on September 20 in protests that were quickly stopped the security forces who arrested 4,000 people.

“As Spain doesn’t permit extraditions for political reasons, the Egyptian government is looking for an excuse,” said Ali, who is confident he won’t be sent back.

“In Spain, they respect human rights and they know that the case against me is political.”