Egyptian media owner detained after trafficking and sexual assault claims

The Guardian [London, England]

January 13, 2022

By Edmund Bower

Mohamed al-Amin’s alleged victims, all teenage girls, said he abused them in an orphanage he owned and in his holiday home

An Egyptian media tycoon with close ties to the government has been detained pending an investigation into allegations of sexual assault. The Egyptian public prosecution service says it is investigating reports that businessman Mohamed al-Amin sexually abused girls living in an orphanage that he owned and took them on trips to his holiday villa.

Amin, best known for establishing the pro-government CBC network in 2011, was arrested on Friday to be held for four days. The court decided to extend Amin’s pre-trial detention for a further 15 days in a hearing on Sunday where he told the court: “I never did anything wrong. I treated those girls like my own children.”

Allegations of sexual abuse at the Safe Hands Home for Girls were first made public in December by the humanitarian organisation Missing Children. Its founder Rami el-Gebali told the Guardian that an official in the Ministry of Social Solidarity told him in mid-October of multiple complaints about the orphanage that the ministry had been slow to pursue. The ministry says that it closed the home on 29 November.

Three girls at the orphanage, aged between 13 and 18, reported to Missing Children that Amin had molested them and taken them to his seaside house on Egypt’s north coast. The girls said they had been made to wear revealing clothes and to dance for Amin. One 13-year-old said that he had presented her with a marriage contract, which he pressured her to sign.

In an interview with Egyptian talkshow Sada El Balad, the minister of social solidarity, Niveen Qabbag, said she had initially been impressed by the facilities at the Safe Hands Home when she officially opened it in March 2021. She added that it was well known that Amin would frequently stay at the orphanage with his wife, but that the ministry responded quickly to the sexual abuse allegations in shutting down the home.

The story has been widely spread on Twitter in Egypt, with many calling the case “Egypt’s Jeffrey Epstein”, drawing parallels with the US financier who was found dead in his cell in 2019 while awaiting trial for sex offences.

Amin came to prominence in July 2011, when he launched the CBC news channel after the Arab spring protests. The network became well known for supporting the official line of the interim government, at a time when many stations used the increased press freedom to take a more critical view after president Hosni Mubarak had stood down.

When President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi came to power in 2014, Amin was appointed to the board of trustees for the presidential development fund, Long Live Egypt, to which his company reportedly donated 1.2bn Egytian pounds (£56.2m). After his arrest, member of the House of Representatives Mostafa Bakry defended Amin on Twitter, saying that he was “the first to donate to the Long Live Egypt fund”, and calling him “a man known for his faith and piety”.

Amin is not the first establishment figure to be arrested in recent months. In June last year, businessman Hassan Ratib and former MP Alaa Hassanein were charged with financing illegal excavations and the smuggling abroad of ancient Egyptian antiquities.

Their trial began on Saturday where the court heard that the two men funded four archaeological digs in different regions.