Saturday 20 December 2014

Billionaire faces death over pop star's murder

Friend of Egyptian president had lover killed

Catherine Philp in Cairo

Published 22/05/2009 | 00:00

Hisham Talaat Moustafa was sentenced to death for the murder of his former pop star lover Suzanne Tamim. Photo: Getty Images

IT is a plot straight out of one of the soap operas that keep Egyptians glued to their sets through Ramadan: the beautiful showgirl with a troubled past, the billionaire who falls for her and a sordid, blood-soaked murder that shattered their intertwined lives.

Egypt was astonished yesterday by an ending far stranger than fiction when Hisham Talaat Moustafa, a property tycoon, political insider and friend of the president, was sentenced to hang for the killing of his former pop-star lover.

It brings to an end a year-long episode that refocused attention on the Egyptian government's relationship with big business, its attempts to muzzle the press and a more basic discussion on private morals.

Sensation

The murder of Suzanne Tamim, a 30-year-old Lebanese singer, created a tabloid sensation when photographs of her lying dead with her throat slashed appeared last July.

Ms Tamim, from Beirut, rose to fame in the mid-1990s after winning a Lebanese television talent show. The audience celebrated Ms Tamim's sultry beauty and the quality of her voice, which she turned to modern pop and classical Arabic music with equal aplomb.

As her fame grew, though, her private life became more complicated.

After her second marriage, to her manager, collapsed, she fled to Cairo and faded into obscurity -- until her murder propelled her into the limelight.

The case hogged front pages until an Egyptian newspaper went so far as to claim that a prominent business figure was under investigation.

The Government quickly imposed a ban on media discussion of the case, but that collapsed within weeks when it emerged that Hisham Talaat Moustafa had been arrested.

Moustafa (49) a parliamentarian from the ruling National Democratic Party, was a friend of President Mubarak's son and heir apparent, Gamal. Mr Mubarak's regime has become notorious for its links with wealthy businessmen and Moustafa was no exception.

He ran a property conglomerate worth several billion euro.

Prosecutors alleged that Moustafa and Ms Tamim had been lovers before she broke off the relationship and became engaged to the Iraqi kick-boxing champion Riyadh al-Azzawi.

They claimed that Moustafa paid €1.4m to Mohsen el-Sukkari, a former Egyptian police officer, to follow Ms Tamin to London and Dubai.

There Sukkari tricked his way into the flat. Ms Tamim was discovered dead hours later with her throat slashed and multiple stab wounds.

The scene in the courtroom turned chaotic yesterday when judges announced convictions for both men and sentenced them to death.

Moustafa's two daughters burst into tears and his wife fainted.

Abdel Sattar Tamim, the dead singer's father, said that the family was satisfied with the guilty verdict. (© The Times, London)

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