By Yoni Ben Menachem
web posted January 4, 2021
In August 2020, the Egyptian security services achieved an important milestone in its war on radical Islamic terrorism. After seven years of an intense manhunt, Egyptian security arrested 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 Egypt. Mahmoud 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.
According to a statement from the Egyptian Interior Ministry, Ezzat was captured on August 28, 2020, hiding in a residential apartment in east Cairo. Egyptian security officials seized cell phones, computers, and documents in the apartment, some of which were encrypted. From the apartment, he operated the movement all over Egypt and maintained contact with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled Egypt to Qatar and Turkey after President a-Sisi came to power.
Ezzat is considered the most dangerous figure in the Muslim Brotherhood after military wing leader Mohammed Kamal was killed by Egyptian security officials in 2016. Ezzat, born in 1944, was one of the loyal disciples of Muslim Brotherhood ideologist Sayyid al-Qutb. His nickname in Egypt was “Mr. X” or “the Black Box” of the Muslim Brotherhood. He previously served a 10-year prison sentence in an Egyptian prison because of his activities as part of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In recent years, he has been responsible for a series of attacks on senior Egyptian law enforcement officials who acted on President al-Sisi’s orders against the Muslim Brotherhood. Among Ezzat’s crimes, he was responsible for the 2015 murder of Egyptian Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat, Egyptian security chief General Adel Rajaei and police Colonel Wael Tahon in 2016.
Mahmoud Ezzat was the leading funder of the Muslim Brotherhood, coordinating contact with the global Muslim Brotherhood and the movement’s leaders, who fled to Qatar and Turkey and were granted asylum.
Egypt’s security sources revealed that during the investigation, Ezzat provided a treasure trove of information about the Muslim Brotherhood’s financing activities in Egypt and its connections to Hamas and the global Muslim Brotherhood. Now, preliminary details of the investigation are being published in the press regarding the Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas funding mechanism in Egypt.
On December 14, 2020, Al-Arabiya TV reported that the Ezzat’s investigation revealed important and dangerous information about the investment of the Muslim Brotherhood’s funds. A group of Egyptian businessmen used these investments’ profits to fund the movement’s terrorist activities. The businessmen were arrested. According to the Al-Arabiya account, Ezzat controlled assets of $19 billion.
The report said that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood operates as a “multi-armed international mafia” that has infiltrated all aspects of life in Egypt and some Arab countries.
The Egyptian Press Celebrates the Arrest Reports
Some of the group of Egyptian businessmen arrested actually belonged to the movement, and others were loyal to it. They managed the movement’s investments in exchange for a share of the profits. These well-known businessmen include:
• Safwan Thabet, owner of one of Egypt’s biggest dairy companies, arrested on December 2, 2020, and accused of financing a terrorist organization.
• 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.
Mahmoud Ezzat’s interrogation revealed three more Egyptian companies that invested money in 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 financial activity related to the Hamas organization. The inquiry announced 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 amongst the leaders of the movement, and 30 percent of the profits are transferred to Hamas.
Covert Anti-Egyptian Activity
These are the conclusions of the initial and on-going investigation leaked to the Egyptian and Saudi media. The economic activity of the Muslim Brotherhood’s multi-armed octopus is part of 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.
Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.