Egyptian on way to Queen's party held over 'murder plot'

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The Independent Online

A wealthy Egyptian businessman was arrested on his way to the Queen's garden party earlier this month on suspicion of trying to have four people murdered.

A wealthy Egyptian businessman was arrested on his way to the Queen's garden party earlier this month on suspicion of trying to have four people murdered.

Mamdouh Hamza, 57, was held on 12 July after flying to the UK from Cairo with his wife. He was due to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace the next day but he was intercepted by police.

Egyptian newspapers have reported that Mr Hamza, a millionaire engineer, is at the centre of an investigation into an alleged plot to kill Egypt's housing minister.

Mr Hamza appeared at Bow Street magistrates' court in London on 14 July, charged with soliciting the murder of four people, and was remanded in custody. He is due to reappear on 1 September.

A Foreign Office spokesman said that the British ambassador in Cairo had discussed the case with Egypt's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and the embassy was "in close contact with the Egypt authorities about this case".

He said that Mr Hamza's invitation from the Queen to the garden party had been made via the British Embassy in Cairo.

The arrest has caused amazement in Egypt because of Mr Hamza's high public standing. The fact that no extradition proceedings have been sought indicates that the offences were alleged to have occurred in the UK.

A spokesman for Egypt's President, Hosni Mubarak, said yesterday: "We are exerting all our efforts in this case." He said that the case seemed to be related neither to politics nor terrorism.

Osama Morsi, a partner in the engineering firm set up by Mr Hamza, said his colleague was a respected man in Egypt.

Mr Morsi, speaking from his office in Cairo, said: "The reason for his arrest nobody knows. Something is wrong. Maybe he was set up.

"We are astounded. It is shocking for all the people who know him. It is incredible."

Mr Morsi said Dr Hamza was now being held at a high-security prison in east London.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Mr Hamza appeared at Bow Street magistrates' court on 14 July charged with soliciting to murder four known people. He was remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on the 1 September."

Dr Hamza studied at Imperial College, London and at the University of Wales. He is also a fellow in the UK's Institute of Civil Engineers and Geological Society. He heads the construction company Hamza Associates, which built the Alexandria Library and other major projects. The firm has branches in several Arab and African countries.