HE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Wednesday, September 3rd 2008, 12:08 PM
Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim was found decapitated in July. An Egyptian business tycoon has been arrested in her death.
CAIRO, Egypt - One of the biggest Egyptian business tycoons was arrested Tuesday for allegedly paying a former police officer to kill a popular Lebanese pop singer, Egypt's chief prosecutor said.
Hisham Talaat, who is also a lawmaker from the ruling party of President Hosni Mubarak, is accused of paying the ex-policeman US$2 million to kill 30-year-old Suzanne Tamim, chief prosecutor Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud told The Associated Press. Tamim's body was found decapitated in her Dubai apartment in July.
The slaying made waves in Egyptian media in early August and prompted a media ban in Egypt, following reports that high-profile Egyptian figures were involved in the case.
The ban raised complaints that Mubarak's government was protecting the big businessmen who have been playing an increasingly prominent role in the authoritarian president's rule.
Talaat, a senior member of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, was reportedly being considered for a Cabinet post. His businesses include real estate and tourism developments in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. He owns several companies and is involved in the construction of satellite upscale suburbs around Cairo.
Mahmoud, the prosecutor, said former police officer Mahmoud el-Sukkary was paid to follow Tamim from London to Dubai, where he bought a knife to kill her. He made his way into the singer's home pretending to be a real estate agent, then stabbed her to death.
Arab media has speculated that Talaat, a married father of three, was romantically involved with Tamim but Mahmoud gave no indication what the motive for the alleged contract killing might have been.
The ban was never officially lifted, but the chief prosecutor's statement Tuesday was widely reported by Egyptian media.
Last month, the independent Egyptian Al-Dustour daily was barred from distribution after it published an article reporting the arrest of an Egyptian in the case. The identity of the arrested Egyptian was not revealed at the time, but Mahmoud said Tuesday it was the former officer, el-Sukkary, who was detained in Egypt 48 hours after the murder.
Several Egyptian papers complained that the government was using the ban to protect prominent figures. Columnist Hamdi Rizq in the independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper said these figures were "becoming immune" and that the "regime helps them get out of disasters and whitewashes them."
Even before Talaat's arrest, rumors had swirled about his involvement, prompting the value of his stock to plummet on Egypt's stock market. In the last two days, the Talaat Mostafa Group's shares lost nearly a quarter of their value in frenzied trading.
Tamim burst onto the Lebanese pop scene in 1996 after winning the top prize in a popular television talent show. However, her career, which included albums produced by Arabic music giant Rotana, was overshadowed by troubled private life that included two high profile divorces.