Middle East

Spanish court sets huge bail for Mubarak associate

Hussein Salem (file)
Image caption Hussein Salem was charged in Egypt with fraud and financial speculation

Spain's National Court has set a record bail figure following the detention of a close associate of the former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak.

Hussein Salem appeared in court twice on Friday - once in connection with a warrant issued from Egypt, and then on suspicion of money laundering in Spain.

Bail set in the separate hearings reached 27m euros ($39m; £24m).

Spanish police also froze more than 32.5m euros in cash, properties worth 10m euros and five luxury cars.

The money was obtained illegally in Egypt and sent to bank accounts in Spain held by Mr Salem through a series of companies created by a "frontman", identified as a Turkish man named Ali Evsen, the police alleged.

Spanish citizenship

Mr Salem was charged in Egypt with fraud and financial speculation last month along with Mr Mubarak and the ex-president's two sons, Alaa and Gamal. Their trial is scheduled to start on 3 August.

The 77 year old is alleged to have siphoned $714m in public money out of a deal to sell natural gas to Israel.

Prosecutors say Mr Mubarak allowed a company in which Mr Salem was a major shareholder to buy gas from the government at below market price, and then resold the gas to Israel at a substantial mark-up.

Mr Mubarak is also alleged to have allowed Mr Salem to buy a large amount of land on Egypt's Red Sea coast from the government at a discounted price in return for five luxury villas.

Mr Salem is reported to have left Egypt on 3 February, eight days before the president was forced to resign by anti-government protesters.

Image caption Egypt's military rulers have vowed to bring to justice all those guilty of abuse

Mr Mubarak has been held in custody at a hospital in Sharm al-Sheikh since April, but it was not until Thursday night that Mr Salem was detained along with his son, Khaled, and Mr Evsen in a wealthy Madrid suburb.

On Friday, Mr Salem appeared before two magistrates at the National Court in the Spanish capital, one handling the Spanish money-laundering investigation and the other dealing with the international arrest warrant.

The judges set bail for Salem at a total of 27m euros - 12m in the Spanish case and 15m in the Egyptian extradition case.

For now, the two proceedings will go ahead simultaneously. At some point, a decision will be made as to which takes precedence.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Madrid says it is not clear how the charges brought against Mr Salem in Spain will affect Egypt's wish to try him this summer, or the fact that he holds both Spanish and Egyptian passports.

After his court appearance, Mr Salem was reportedly treated in hospital for neurological problems. A court physician told the Associated Press that he was not in good health, but that the problem was not life-threatening.

Bail for Khaled Salem, who also has Spanish citizenship, was set at 6m euros and for Mr Evsen at 18m euros.