March 24, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1125

Former Al-Ahram Editor Ibrahim Nafi' Suspected of Embezzlement

March 24, 2006
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 1125

Ibrahim Nafi', former editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, former chairman of the Al-Ahram Institute's board of directors, and current member of the Egyptian Shura Council, is suspected of embezzling some 3.5 billion Egyptian pounds (L.E.), or about $608 million, during his term as editor of the paper and chairman of the board of directors of the Al-Ahram Institute.

Nafi' has in the past faced investigation on charges of antisemitism in France, following MEMRI's translation of an article in his paper Al-Ahram that included a blood libel against the Jews. Nafi' was prosecuted under French law because the paper is also printed there. [1]

On February 24, 2006, Salah Al-Ghumri, Nafi's successor as the paper's editor and as chairman of the Al-Ahram Institute's board of directors, barred Nafi' from the office he still used at the Al-Ahram Institute, after the theft of files from Al-Ghumri's office - files which contained documentation of the main suspicions of embezzlement against Nafi', his sons, and his cronies at the institute. Currently, Nafi' is writing his column for Al-Ahram from his home. [2]

In light of the suspicions against Nafi', Egyptian Justice Minister Mahmoud Abu Al-Leil demanded that the Shura Council's Constitution and Legislation Committee remove Nafi's immunity as a Shura Council member. However, the committee rejected this request pending a discussion of his case, which was scheduled for March 22, 2006. [3]

Mustafa Bakri, member of the Egyptian parliament and editor of the Egyptian opposition paper Al-Usbu', investigated Nafi's case and published the results: far-reaching embezzlement by Nafi', his two sons, and his cronies. Bakri wrote that Nafi's salary as head of the Al-Ahram Institute had been L.E. 3 million (about $500,000) a month, and that currently his personal assets tallied L.E. 3 billion - in contrast to the L.E. 3,100 he had had in 1978. [4] Nafi', for his part, denied the allegations, and said that he had not received a salary of L.E. 3 million a month, or even L.E. 3 million a year. [5]

The following are the highlights of the Al-Usbu' investigation into Ibrahim Nafi''s embezzlement:

While Al-Ahram Owed Banks, Taxes, and Social Insurance - Nafi' Received Over Half a Million Dollars Every Month

According to the Al-Usbu' report, the Al-Ahram Institute "owes about L.E. 1 billion to banks and other [institutions]; it also owes taxes and social insurance [...] Most of the companies [under] the Al-Ahram Institute are losing [money]." Nafi's successor Salah Al-Ghumri found that Nafi' was receiving as salary L.E. 3 million a month, or half a million dollars, along with an additional L.E. 116,000 in percentages of circulation profits and advertising profits, as well as grants and income from Al-Ahram's companies. In addition, he freely spent money from the institute's accounts and embezzled funds - leaving the institute unable to pay its taxes.

Nafi's Sons' Company InterGroup had a Monopoly on Importing Institute Supplies

Al-Usbu' found that Intergroup, the company established by Nafi's sons Ahmad and Omar and senior institute official Hassan Hamdi, "was given a monopoly on importing all the institute's [office] supplies [...] and everyone in the institute was forbidden to purchase any supplies from any other company [...] Many recent publications were printed on [costly] chromo paper and caused great losses to the institute - but the institute continued [...] buying paper and ink from the company [...] regardless of the losses that this was incurring [...]"

During the Time Nafi' Worked for Al-Ahram, His Assets Increased From L.E. 3,100 to L.E. 3.5 Billion

According to the report, "data show that Nafi's wealth increased from L.E. 3,100 in 1978 [when he began working at Al-Ahram] to L.E. 3.5 billion in 2005 [when he left] [...] "

The report found that "a spider's web [of Nafi's cronies], who number no more than 30, [...] receive some L.E. 10 million a month in fees, salaries, and grants. This is while the institute's 10,000 clerks and journalists receive the sum of L.E. 20 million [all together] [...]

"[Also], the institute owned 250 Ford Mondeo cars, which were sold after a while as junkers, at L.E. 4,000 ($695) each - much lower than their value. Don't be surprised when you hear that the buyer was one of Nafi's sons."

[1] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No.107, "French Legal Authorities Investigating Editor of Major Egyptian Daily for Antisemitism," September 6, 2002, French Legal Authorities Investigating Editor of Major Egyptian Daily for Antisemitism.

[2] Al-Usbu' (Egypt), March 6, 2006.

[3] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), March 19, 2006.

[4] Al-Usbu' (Egypt), August 22, 2005.

[5] Al-Hayat (London), March 23, 2006.

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