A Sadat-era 'Watergate' simmers

President Hosni Mubarak issued instructions for starting an investigation into what could become the Watergate of the Sadat era, Monitor contributor Olfat M. El Tohamy writes.

Analysts believe President Mubarak's move is a response to pressure for change in the absence of any major achievement during his first year in power. Exposing the corruption rampant under President Sadat would strengthen grass-roots support for Mr. Mubarak.

It could also rid him of established Sadat aides and ruling party dignitaries who have proved obstacles to change. Sources with access to the case file say the forthcoming trial will bring up names from Mr. Sadat's inner circle including relatives, a former deputy prime minister, two governors, and a number of former and present Cabinet members.

Mr. Sadat's brother Esmat, who has been arrested and whose property has been sequestered, is formally charged with selling building materials on the black market, blackmailing individuals as well as companies, embezzlement, and spending large sums of money paid as advances to a cooperative housing project over which he presided. Other charges include drug trafficking deals and illegal seizure of state-owned land, sources said.

The late President and his relative were not on speaking terms during the last three years before Mr. Sadat's killing because of the late President's dissaproval of his brother's behavior and abuse of his influence and protection. But all he did to curb this was to prevent him from traveling abroad and bar his entrance to the Alexandria port area.

Esmat Sadat's trial is expected to come up in a few weeks.

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