(December 31, 2020 / JCPA) In August 2020, after an intense seven-year manhunt, the Egyptian security services achieved an important milestone in the country’s war on radical Islamic terrorism: the arrest of Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and head of its military wing, responsible for a series of attacks in the country. Ezzat led the movement from his hideout after Muhammad Badie, the movement’s general guide, was arrested and imprisoned in 2013. Ezzat was sentenced in absentia to two death sentences and three life sentences.
Mahmoud Ezzat was the leading funder of the Muslim Brotherhood, coordinating contact with the global movement and its leaders, who fled to Qatar and Turkey after President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in Egypt. According to a statement from the Egyptian Interior Ministry, during Ezzat’s Aug. 28 arrest in a residential apartment in east Cairo, security officials seized cell phones, computers and documents in the apartment, some of which were encrypted.
Egypt’s security sources have revealed that during his investigation, Ezzat provided a treasure trove of information about the Muslim Brotherhood’s financial activities in Egypt and its connections to Hamas and the global Muslim Brotherhood. Preliminary details are now being published in the Arab press.
On Dec. 14, Al-Arabiya TV reported that a group of Egyptian businessmen had been managing the investment of the movement’s funds, in exchange for a share of the profits. The businessmen were arrested. According to the report, Ezzat controlled assets worth $19 billion, and the Brotherhood operated as a “multi-armed international mafia” that had infiltrated all aspects of life in Egypt and some other Arab countries.
These businessmen, only some of whom actually belonged to the movement, were well-known in Egypt, and included:
• Safwan Thabet, owner of one of Egypt’s biggest dairy companies.
• Sayed Sowerky, owner of a major chain of stores for household goods and clothes.
• Khaled al-Azhari, the former minister of manpower during the Morsi (Muslim Brotherhood) presidency.
• Hatem Abdul Latif, the former transport minister under Morsi.
• Samir Abdel-Halim Afifi, owner of the Nile Cotton Company.
Ezzat’s interrogation also revealed three Egyptian companies that invested money with the Muslim Brotherhood. These ventures’ profits financed the movement’s terrorist activities. Involved were a cosmetics company, a sports center management company and a moving and refuse-removal service company.
The Egyptian investigation also revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood was investing Hamas money in several companies in Egypt and abroad, in exchange for 30 percent of the profits.
Hamas leaders held meetings to raise more money in several Arab countries, including Syria and Algeria, in addition to the financial aid they receive from Iran. The international fund of the Muslim Brotherhood takes and invests 60 percent of these donations. The remaining 40 percent is distributed among the leaders of the movement, and 30 percent of the profits are transferred to Hamas.
The economic activity of the Muslim Brotherhood’s multi-armed octopus is part of its founder Sayed Qutb’s ideology that promotes the demolition of Egyptian government institutions.
Since its inception, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been working to establish legal methods for investing money and protecting property from confiscation by the Egyptian government. As the details of the investigation are revealed, the Egyptian government has already acted to freeze the funds and property in accordance with Egyptian law, which requires the seizure of funds and property owned by terrorist organizations.
Although this is an important Egyptian achievement, there are still Arab and Muslim countries that allow the Brotherhood and Hamas to manage financial and monetary activities in their lands, such as Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
This article was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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