Skip to main content

Probes gain momentum as Mubarak claims innocence

By Ivan Watson and Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, CNN
Click to play
Should Hosni Mubarak face charges?
  • Former Egyptian president says he has no bank accounts outside Egypt
  • Egyptians don't believe him, claim his government was corrupt
  • Egyptian volunteers are lining up to help government investigate Mubarak and his sons

Cairo (CNN) -- The president's men keep falling. Day after day, Egyptians wake up to news that yet another former official from Hosni Mubarak's government has been arrested on charges of corruption and abuse of power. His prime minister. His chief of staff. His ministers of tourism and housing.

During a recent court appearance, onlookers yelled "thief" at Ahmed Ezz and Ahmed el Maghrabi. The two former high-ranking Mubarak officials sat behind bars, dressed in white prison uniforms.

But to some Egyptians, that just isn't enough.

"All of these ministers you see, it is nothing!" bellows Talat Sadat, a former law-maker who was sentenced to prison in 2006 for publicly accusing Mubarak of playing a role in the assassination of his uncle Anwar Sadat. "The revolution wants the president himself! Wants his wife! His son!"

Last Friday, the revolution was back in Tahrir Square. Tens of thousands of Egyptians turned out for what may have been one of the biggest rallies since the 18 heady days of street protests that toppled Mubarak on February 11. The crowd was baying for the head of their former president.

Mubarak: I'll sue detractors
Fight to find Mubarak assets
What's inside Mubarak's closet?

"Of course we want Mubarak himself," said Asser Hussain, a young demonstrator who shuttled back and forth on one of the stages in the square, handing the microphone to one revolutionary speaker after another. "When you make a revolution you have to remove the head of corruption," he added.

Angry demonstrators accused Egypt's ruling military council, which assumed government powers upon Mubarak's resignation, of protecting the former president from prosecution. Mubarak and his family are believed to have been living on his estate in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh since February 11.

Mubarak hospitalized in Sharm el-Sheikh

Two days after the protest, Mubarak broke his silence for the first time since his humiliating resignation.

In an audio statement released to the Al Arabiya network, he denied accusations that he and his sons had abused their positions to accumulate vast wealth which has allegedly been hidden in overseas accounts.

"I don't have any accounts outside of Egypt," Mubarak said, apparently reading from a prepared text. "The Egyptian people can be sure that their previous president only has one account inside the country in an Egyptian bank."

Within hours, Egypt's prosecutor general released a statement, assuring the public that Mubarak's denials would have no impact on his ongoing investigation into the former ruling family.

The Justice Ministry is investigating the Mubarak family's links to deadly attacks on protesters during the revolution that began on January 25. It is also looking at "issues revolving around the seizure of public finances and abuse of power to acquire commissions and benefits from different business deals."

The prosecutor's office also upped the ante, announcing it had issued a formal request for "the former president and his sons to submit to questioning."

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo recently confirmed that the U.S. government is cooperating with the Egyptian government in the search for alleged Mubarak assets hidden in the United States.

Meanwhile, Egyptian volunteers are lining up to help government investigators.

Amir Marghani recently joined what could be described as a volunteer posse of lawyers and judges determined to track down the former ruling family's money.

Calling themselves the "Egyptian Legal Committee for the Reimbursement of Egyptian Wealth," the group is trying to make sense of what it claims is Mubarak's complicated network of shell companies and offshore accounts hidden in tax havens overseas.

Marghani says while practicing corporate law in Egypt over the past 15 years, he personally witnessed the Mubarak family's abuse of power.

"A member of the ruling family wanted to assume chairmanship of a company I advise," the lawyer said. "And when the chairman would not step down, he sent certain government agencies to raid the company, confiscate documents and put the guy under investigation for seven months."

Marghani claims these mafia-like tactics crippled business growth.

"That's why many businessmen in Egypt would always want to stay below the radar, stay below a certain turn-over," Marghani added. "I don't want to employ 2,000 people, [because then] people will start to look my way and if they look my way they'll force themselves on to my business."

"In Egypt you are innocent until proven guilty," responds lawyer Samir al Shishtawi. On March 7, he says Hosni Mubarak personally called and asked Shishtawi to provide legal representation.

When Shishtawi announced this on Egyptian television, he says was flooded by death threats.

"I received threatening phone calls from many parties," Shishtawi said in an interview with CNN. "My relatives from all across Egypt came down to set-up neighborhood watches around my house to protect me."

Shishtawi says he has since been replaced by a team of lawyers from England. But he still defends the former president, pointing out Mubarak has yet to be formally charged with any crime.

If one day Mubarak or his controversial eldest son, Gamal, are ever brought to trial, even their critics fear they may not be treated fairly.

"We have a very bad grudge against those people," admits Marghany, the member of the committee investigating Mubarak family wealth. "Right now a fair trial would be very difficult ...but he should get a fair trial."

Even the men guarding the president's men seem to have little sympathy for them.

During a visit to Cairo's infamous Tora Prison, an army captain confirmed Mubarak's former prime minister Ahmed Nazif, was one of the jail's newest residents.

"Democracy," the officer added with a smile. "Justice."

Part of complete coverage on
'Sons of Mubarak' in plea for respect
Pro-Mubarak supporters believe Egypt's former president is innocent of charges of corruption and killing protesters.
Timeline of the conflict in Libya
Fighting in Libya started with anti-government demonstrations in February and escalated into a nationwide civil war.
Who are these rebels?
After months of seeming stalemate, Libyan rebels declared they were moving in on Tripoli. But who are they?
Why NATO's Libya mission has shifted
Six months and more than 17,000 air sorties after it began, NATO's Operation Unified Protector in the skies over Libya grinds on.
Interactive map: Arab unrest
Click on countries in CNN's interactive map to see the roots of their unrest and where things stand today.
Send your videos, stories
Are you in the Middle East or North Africa? Send iReport your images. Don't do anything that could put you at risk.
Libya through Gadhafi's keyhole
Behind the official smiles for the cameras some people in Libya's capital are waiting for the rebels, reports CNN's Ivan Watson.
How Arab youth found its voice
Tunisia's Mohamed Bouazizi not only ignited a series of revolts but heralded the first appearance of Arab youth on the stage of modern history.