Anwar Sadat's grandson calls for investigation into passport sale at auction

The late president's diplomatic passport, which had previously gone on sale in 2013, was sold on Wednesday for $47,500

The grandson of Anwar Sadat has submitted a formal complaint to parliament decrying the recent sale of the former Egyptian president’s diplomatic passport through Texas-based Heritage Auctions.

The complaint was addressed to Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and the ministers of foreign affairs, culture and tourism by Karim Sadat, a parliamentarian and member of the ruling Mostaqbal Watan majority party.

Mr Sadat formally requested that an official investigation be launched to determine how the passport came to leave Egypt and make its way into the hands of a private buyer.

The passport, which was listed as sold on Heritage Auction's official website on Sunday morning, was valid from 1979 until 1981, the year his grandfather died during the annual celebration of Egypt, Syria and Jordan’s October 6, 1973 victory against Israel. The conflict was one of the defining moments of Mr Sadat’s 11-year presidency.

The auction house confirmed in its listing that the passport had been authenticated. The listing included several photos of the passport. One included a page with a black and white photograph of the former president.

It sold for $47,500 on Wednesday.

“It is our right to know how our heritage and the personal belongings of Egypt’s presidents have made their way there and are being sold. Why isn’t the state the one benefiting from the belongings of people who gave their lives for Egypt,” Mr Sadat told Salet El Tahrir, a popular pro-government talk show, on Saturday night.

He vehemently denied that the family had anything to do with the sale.

“All we’re asking for is to find out who was responsible for this.”

The late president’s wife Jehan Sadat had donated a collection of his belongings to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which went on display in a dedicated museum in 2009.

Ahmed Zayed, the library’s director, told the same talk show in a separate phone-in that there was no record of the auctioned passport being among the donated items.

The collection donated to the library included Sadat’s military uniform, the traditional garb of his rural village, which he wore when he visited, and the suit he was wearing when he was assassinated in Cairo, Mr Zayed confirmed.

“These items were logged and stored properly. They never contained a passport, diplomatic or otherwise,” Mr Zayed told the talk show on Saturday night. “I don’t think it would have been legal for us to even accept a passport as part of the collection. It is typically owned by the state, not private individuals. We are hearing and reading unsavoury things about the way in which the passport could have left Egypt but either way we had nothing to do with it.”

However, on Thursday, Bab Masr, a news outlet dedicated to Egyptian heritage, published an investigative report about the sale that included a screenshot of a 2018 Facebook post made by the Sadat Museum which contained photos of Sadat’s diplomatic passport.

The passport in the museum’s Facebook post appeared to be the same as the one in the Heritage Auctions listing.

The National could not independently verify the screenshots.

Mr Zayed and other representatives from the Bibliotheca refused to comment on the report and Bab Masr said the Facebook post in question was deleted after it had contacted the Sadat Museum.

Additionally, Wednesday’s sale was not the first time Sadat’s diplomatic passport had gone on sale.

Paul Topol, a passport historian, told Bab Masr that he had authenticated the passport ahead of a proposed separate sale 10 years ago.

The passport was not sold at the time, he said, because the seller requested $50,000, which the prospective buyer refused.

Passports are legally the property of the state that issued them and they can be recalled or cancelled, according to Mr Topol, but he said it was unlikely that the Egyptian government will be able to retrieve it because more than 40 years have passed since it was issued.

Most passports can be retrieved by their issuing government for between 30 and 40 years after someone has died, he said.

Updated: February 26, 2023, 1:15 PM