Engineer's plot to murder Egyptian politicians backfired, court hears

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The Independent Online

An engineer who had agreed to pay a hitman $100,000 (£58,000) to assassinate an Egyptian government minister was arrested in a sting operation shortly before he was due to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace, a court was told.

The Egyptian national had also asked for three other top-ranking civil servants to be shot dead as part of a plot to rebuild his career. But the London-based killer whom Dr Mamdouh Hamza believed he was hiring was a undercover police officer, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

Dr Hamza said his arch-rival, Muhammad Sulieman, the minister for housing and development, was preventing him from becoming prime minister of Egypt, it was claimed. The internationally renowned engineer was arrested on his way to a garden party at Buckingham Palace, the court heard. He asked for three other government officials to be killed to make the shooting appear political rather than personal, said Timothy Langdale, QC, for the prosecution.

Dr Hamza, 58, denies soliciting to murder Muhammad Sulieman, Fathi Sorour, the People's Assembly Speaker, Kamal al-Shazli, the minister of state for the People's Assembly, and Zakaria Azmi, the chief of the president's office, between 17 June and 13 July last year. In conversations between Dr Hamza and undercover officers known only as Anthony and Tommy, the Egyptian allegedly used the expression "the final solution".

Mr Langdale told the jury: "In summer last year, Dr Hamza revealed to undercover officers that he wanted to hire someone to kill a long-standing and apparently powerful enemy of his in Egypt. This arch enemy was Muhammad Sulieman, whose activities affected who was granted work in Egypt in terms of engineering projects. Hamza went on at some length that Mr Sulieman was killing his practice and reputation and taking projects from him. He said he was suffering physically and psychologically and was being destroyed by him."

The engineer agreed to hand over $5,000 for initial expenses and that the final fee should be $100,000, Mr Langdale alleged.

Dr Hamza allegedly said: "I could be prime minister of Egypt easily - not with this man. I could have had the highest award - I have 10 international awards - not one from my country. This man is blocking them." Mr Langdale alleged that Dr Hamza wanted others in Egypt killed "essentially to make it look like the killing of Sulieman was a series of political murders".

Dr Hamza was arrested following a second meeting with one of the "hitmen" on 12 July last year. The engineer had allegedly had his last meeting with undercover officer Tommy to discuss details of the planned assassinations and the price.

Mr Langdale said Dr Hamza was an internationally known engineer. "He is a man of reputation in his professional world and had been involved in major projects in Egypt and other countries. He has received a number of awards in his field. He is a man of good character.

"However, a police investigation into certain activities of Dr Hamza in this country by means of an undercover operation revealed there was another side of his character and another preoccupation - amounting perhaps to an obsession quite outside his ordinary work as an engineer."

The trial continues.