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Tue 2 Sep 2008 04:06 PM

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Property tycoon charged over Tamim killing

Prominent Egyptian businessman accused of hiring $2mn hit on Lebanese singer.

Egypt's prosecutor has charged the chairman of developer Talaat Moustafa Group for hiring a man to kill Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim in Dubai, the prosecution said on Tuesday.

The indictment charges former police officer Muhsen el-Sukkari with killing Tamim on July 28 in return for $2 million from company chairman Hesham Talaat Moustafa.

Shares in Talaat Moustafa, one of Egypt's biggest real estate developers, fell 16 percent to 5.21 pounds ($0.97) on Tuesday as reports of the indictment reached the stock market.

Egyptian media reports have said that Sukkari has worked as a security officer at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, which Talaat Moustafa built.

The indictment says Moustafa "took part through incitement, agreement and assistance with the first defendant (Sukkari) in killing the victim in revenge".

"He provided him with special information and amounts of money necessary to plan and carry out the crime," it said.

Sukkari went to Tamim's apartment in Dubai on July 28 and gained access by pretending to be a representative of the company which owns the building, bringing a present and a letter of thanks from the company, the indictment said.

"He then laid into her with the knife ... cutting her main arteries and her trachea," it added.

"This was on the instigation of the second defendant in return for obtaining from him the sum of $2 million for committing this crime," it said.

Beyond the reference to "revenge", the indictment did not speculate on Moustafa's motives for his acts.

Mohamed Fouad, managing director of Global Capital, said the indictment was likely to hit the whole Egyptian market.

"This will have a very serious negative effect on the company, the sector and the market," he said.

"He (Hesham Talaat Moustafa) is not just anybody. He is the head of one of the biggest companies in Egypt, one which is highly dependent on his presence," he said.

"The scope of the effect will not be clear before we know how solid the financial situation of the company is and to what extent it can survive the possibility of him being convicted. Talaat Moustafa has a huge debt portfolio and if it went down, this could cause a credit crisis," he added.

The company said in a statement that the board of directors on Tuesday appointed Hesham's brother, Tarek Talaat Moustafa, as the new chairman of the company.

Tamim, who was 30, rose to fame after wining the top prize in a television show in 1996. She married Lebanese impresario and producer Adel Matouk, who became her manager, but they later had an acrimonious divorce, media reports said. (Reuters)

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