Former Egyptian minister jailed over Damac land sale

Damac Properties rejects court's claim of wrongdoing.

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Egypt's former tourism minister was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison for squandering public funds, the second member of Hosni Mubarak's cabinet to be jailed for financial misconduct.

A criminal court found Zoheir Garranah guilty of selling public land in Red Sea province below its market value to two businessmen.

The three were fined more than 293 million Egyptian pounds (Dh181 million) and ordered to give back the land.

Mr Garranah allocated one piece of land to a company owned by Hisham al Haziq, head of the board of directors of the Gamsha tourism development company.

Further state land, also on the Red Sea, was allocated to Damac Properties of Dubai, headed by Hussain Sajwani.

"Damac Properties rejects the Egyptian court's judgement regarding the company's purchase of lands in the Red Sea resort area of Gamsha," said Niall McLoughlin, a Damac spokesman.

"There was no evidence of wrongdoing and this judgement is totally politically motivated."

The case is part of a far-reaching legal push to root out corruption following the end of the Mubarak regime in February.

Damac was revealed to be the subject of an investigation last month.

"Damac reiterates that these allegations levelled against the company and its chairman are baseless and we continue to refute them unreservedly," Mr McLoughlin said.

"All lands that Damac purchased in Egypt were acquired in line with government and regulatory rules and regulations prevalent at the time of acquisition.

"All allegations are totally unfounded and the company has acted with the utmost integrity in all business dealings in Egypt.

"Further legal avenues are being evaluated," Mr McLoughlin said.

* With additional reporting by Reuters