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Cablegate: Former Housing Minister Resigns From Parliament Amidst

VZCZCXRO3787
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0203/01 0461436
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 151436Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0239
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000203

SIPDIS
FOR NEA/ELA AND DRL/NESCA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2035/02/15
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KCOR EG
SUBJECT: FORMER HOUSING MINISTER RESIGNS FROM PARLIAMENT AMIDST
CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

REF: 09 CAIRO 2268; 08 CAIRO 2491

CLASSIFIED BY: Donald A. Blome, Minister-Counselor, State, ECPO;
REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. KEY POINTS

-- (SBU) On February 2, former Housing Minister Mohammed Ibrahim
Soliman resigned from parliament in the midst of press reports that
the Public Prosecutor is investigating him for corruption.

-- (C) Independent MPs had filed a criminal complaint against
Soliman in January 2009 for alleged corrupt real estate deals
involving family members and senior GOE officials. Soliman is
widely believed to have been a corrupt housing minister during his
1993 to 2005 tenure.

-- (C) According to contacts, the GOE supported Soliman as housing
minister and during his 2005 parliamentary run, but eventually
backed away following MP allegations that the GOE acted illegally
in June 2009 by nominating Soliman as CEO of a government oil
company.

-- (C) Although one of the independent MPs who filed the January
2009 criminal compliant is certain the case will go to trial
because of strong evidence, NGO observers believed the GOE would
block the case from going to trial over concerns Soliman could
implicate senior GOE officials.

2. (C) Comment: Soliman is the first MP to resign over corruption
since the resignation of an NDP MP following his conviction on
bribery charges in May 2007. Soliman's case is particularly
significant in light of the alleged large scale of his corrupt
dealings as housing minister for 12 years, and his reportedly close
relationship with President Mubarak. Soliman's forced resignation
is a rare instance of independent members of parliament succeeding
in causing political damage to a regime insider. End comment.

---------------------------------------

Former Minister's Resignation

---------------------------------------

3. (C) On February 2, former Housing Minister Mohammed Ibrahim
Soliman resigned from parliament following press reports that the
Public Prosecutor is investigating him for allegedly embezzling and
misappropriating public funds. 47 independent Members of
Parliament, led by Ala Abdel Manaam, had submitted a criminal
complaint to the Public Prosecutor in January 2009 alleging Soliman
engaged in corrupt land deals during his 1993-2005 tenure as
housing minister.

-----------------------------------------

An Alleged History of Corruption

-----------------------------------------

4. (C) Independent MP Ala Abdel Manaam told us he submitted
documents and other evidence to the Public Prosecutor in January
2009 attesting to Soliman's gifts of valuable public land to family
members, and various corrupt real estate deals involving senior GOE
officials. Ahmed Al-Naggar, an analyst specializing in corruption
issues at the GOE-funded Al-Ahram Center, told us that as Housing
Minister Soliman tried to give the Press Syndicate a LE 3 million
(USD 525,000) bribe in 2005 to exclude a particular consulting
engineer from a real estate deal between the syndicate and the
ministry. According to NGO contacts, starting in about 2002

CAIRO 00000203 002 OF 002


Soliman began raising eyebrows by publicly discussing his lucrative
land deals, including a public boast that he owned seven villas.


--------------------------------------------- ----

A History of GOE Support for Soliman

--------------------------------------------- ----

5. (C) Until recently, the GOE had a history of backing Soliman.
According to NGO contacts and press reports, President Mubarak
presented Soliman in 2005 with a prestigious award, "The First
Class Medal of the Republic," following his departure from the
housing ministry after 12 years of service. Human rights attorney
Siah Mahfouz said the GOE certified in a 2006 mandatory review that
all Soliman's earnings were legal during his tenure as housing
minister, and backed him in his successful 2005 parliamentary race.
Human rights activist Engi Haddad who worked with presidential son
Gamal Mubarak in the ruling National Democratic Party told us Gamal
pushed in 2003 and 2004 for Soliman's ouster from the housing
ministry, but President Mubarak resisted before easing Soliman out
in 2005. Haddad believed Soliman had a "close, personal
relationship" with President Mubarak.

6. (C) The GOE's most recent show of support for Soliman -
appointing him in June 2009 as CEO of the government-owned
Petroleum Marine Services Company - rankled the group of
independent MPs who filed the January 2009 criminal complaint
against Soliman. The MPs responded by requesting an investigation
into the appointment's violation of law 159 (1984), which prohibits
MPs from directing companies or serving on boards, except under
extraordinary circumstances. Manaam believed Soliman's television
appearance in December 2009 defending himself by touting his ties
to President Mubarak embarrassed Mubarak, and caused Mubarak to
finally withdraw his support. Press reports that the Public
Prosecutor had opened an investigation of Soliman for corruption
began to appear on January 2.

-------------------

Soliman's Fate

--------------------

7. (C) Manaam told us he believes Mubarak is now unwilling to block
an investigation because Soliman "had gone too far" in asserting
his ties to Mubarak on television. Manaam believed the documentary
and other evidence against Soliman is strong, and he was certain
the Public Prosecutor would file charges against Soliman and order
a trial. In contrast, several NGO contacts expected the Public
Prosecutor would "freeze" the investigation of Soliman as a result
of GOE pressure. They believed the GOE would not allow the case to
move forward because of fears that Soliman could implicate senior
GOE officials involved in his corrupt deals.
SCOBEY

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