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Egypt court agrees to clear billionaire over murder of pop-star lover

Egyptian property tycoon Hisham Talaat Moustafa was sentenced to 15 years for his part in the 2008 murder of Suzanne Tamim
Egyptian tycoon Hisham Talaat Moustafa inside the defendants' cage during his trial at a court in Cairo on 15 November 2008 for the murder of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim. He was pardoned in 2017 (AFP)

An Egyptian criminal court granted a request for name-clearing on Sunday submitted by billionaire business tycoon Hisham Talaat Moustafa, who was sentenced to 15 years for his part in the 2008 murder of his pop star lover, Suzanne Tamim, according to Egypt's leading state-owned newspaper, al-Ahram online

Moustafa applied for the for name-clearing six years after he was granted a presidential pardon in 2017 on health grounds. 

According to al-Ahram, article 536 of the Criminal Procedure Law in Egypt states “name-clearing can be granted to anyone sentenced for a felony or misdemeanour. Name-clearing in Egyptian law requires the passage of six years after completing a sentence or receiving a presidential pardon in felony cases.” 

Tamim became famous in the 1990s after she won an Arabic TV talent show, Arab Star Search

An affair between Tamim and Moustafa began in 2004 after she had initially sought Moustafa's help over divorcing her then-husband, according to media reports.

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Moustafa, who was already married, reportedly wanted Tamim to be his second wife. During the interrogations, Moustafa said that he broke up with Tamim after his mother opposed the couple's marriage plans.

But Tamim reportedly refused Moustafa’s proposal. She subsequently moved to London and was living with Iraqi kickboxing world champion, Riyad al-Azzawi, according to court papers. 

The 30-year-old was found stabbed to death in her Dubai apartment in July 2008. 

An Egyptian court found that Egyptian police officer, Mohsen al-Sukkary, stabbed the Lebanese singer to death after he was paid $2m by Moustafa. Al-Sukkary was sentenced in 2010 to 25 years. In 2020, al-Sukkary was among 3,157 people granted clemency by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Egypt declined to extradite Moustafa to the United Arab Emirates. He was initially sentenced to death in 2009. But in 2010, judges quashed his conviction and ordered a retrial. Moustafa was subsequently given a 15-year jail sentence for hiring al-Sukkary to kill the popular Lebanese pop star. 

Before he was charged with Tamim’s murder, Moustafa was an influential member of President Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party, before Mubarak was overthrown in 2011 after mass protests and police brutality. Moustafa was also known to be close to Gamal, Mubarak’s son. 

Tamim’s killing sparked a public outcry across the Middle East, where Moustafa’s involvement was symbolic of how members of the elite used money and influence to operate above the law. 

Since being released from prison, in May, Forbes Middle East ranked the billionaire tycoon as 45th in its “Top 100 Travel & Tourism Leaders 2023” ranking.

According to Forbes Middle East, Moustafa’s company, one of Egypt’s most prominent real estate companies, owns the Four Seasons Sharm El Sheikh Resort, the Four Seasons Nile Plaza Cairo, the Four Seasons San Stefano Grand Plaza Alexandria, and the Kempinski Nile Hotel Cairo.

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