Withering heights

Posted in Egyptian Affairs, History + Culture, Politics + Diplomacy by expresscheckout on 26 July, 2007

city highrise

Who killed Egyptian billionaire Marwan?
Qatar Living
July 1, 2007

Ashraf Marwan, the son-in-law of the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and a suspected spy for Israel, has been found dead outside his central London flat in “unexplained” circumstances. The Egyptian billionaire, who died aged 62 on Wednesday in London, was the third Egyptian to have jumped off a balcony in London.

One young Egyptian blogger wrote yesterday there “must be something very appealing about a London balcony which tempts famous Egyptians to throw themselves off it.”

Six years ago — also in June — the famous Egyptian actress Souad Hosni allegedly threw herself off the balcony of a residential tower in Maida Vale, North London. In the mid-1970s, Leithy Nassif, the former head of the presidential guard under the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat threw himself off a balcony in the very same tower in Maida Vale. The common link between the three is that they all had intelligence links and were rumoured to have been writing their memoirs at the time of their alleged suicides.

Nassif had helped Sadat stage his palace coup following the death of his predecessor Gamal Abdul-Nasser, when Sadat arrested all Nasser’s men in 1971. Souad Hosni, the idol of Arab cinema, was allegedly employed by the Egyptian intelligence in the 1960s, something which had continued to ruin her reputation after the fall of those who supported her. Her last 10 years were spent in London, where she suffered deep depression and impoverishment. Thus, at the time of her death in 2001, it was said, she was considering finding a publisher for her memoirs to raise money.

Then came the death of Ashraf Marwan last week, which prompted every Egyptian media outlet since then to revisit all conspiracy theories concerning the death of Egyptians in London.

Marwan’s career and connections represent a feast for anyone interested in conspiracy theories. Having married Nasser’s daughter shortly before the late Egyptian president died in 1970, he became president Sadat’s personal political aide in the early 1970s, and later head of Egypt’s Military Industry Organisation before moving to London in the 1980s where he became a billionaire. In 2004, retired major general Eli Zeira, head of military intelligence during the Yom Kippur War, had alleged that Marwan was recruited by Israeli intelligence, Mossad, a year before Nasser died. As if espionage for Mossad was not enough, Marwan’s name was also linked with claims of illicit weapons trading in the Middle East. He was also rumoured to be a close associate of the maverick Mohamed al- Fayad, owner of Harrods and father of Dodi, Princess Diana’s companion who died with her in a car crash in Paris.

Marwan was said to be the principal player in the Tiny Rowland versus al-Fayed war over the House of Fraser which owned Harrods.
In his book Who Killed Diana? Simon Regan an investigative journalist and author of biographies of Prince Charles and Princess Margaret, dedicated a special chapter of his book to Marwan. Regan says: “Cold journalistic logic brings one to the inevitable conclusion that Ashraf Marwan made the most perfect double agent for nearly all of the Middle Eastern and Western espionage agencies.

The “strong circumstantial evidence is that Marwan could not possibly have moved freely in London or Paris (in the particular activities he was known to be engaged in) unless he enjoyed absolute immunity, or, at the very least, official protection,” he says. – DPA

Egyptian billionaire ‘who spied for Mossad’ found dead
Rajeev Syal
The Times
June 28, 2007

An Egyptian billionaire financier who feared for his life after being accused of being a Mossad spy was found dead outside his Mayfair flat yesterday in suspicious circumstances.

Ashraf Marwan, the son-in-law of the late President Gamel Abdel Nasser, was found beneath his fourth-floor flat in Carlton House Terrace. Police were treating his death as suspicious. Friends of Mr Marwan, a former shareholder in Chelsea Football Club, said that he had feared assassination after being named three years ago as an agent during the Yom Kippur war. Rumours of his death circulated in London’s Arab community last night. Some believe that he may have taken his life after a serious illness was diagnosed.

Mr Marwan’s death will send shockwaves across the Middle East and among some of Britain’s wealthiest people. His associates included Adnan Khashoggi, the arms dealer, Ken Bates, the football club chairman, the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and the late Tiny Rowland.

If found to be murder, his death will carry echoes of last year’s assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent.

Mr Marwan, 63, was identified as an agent by the Vanity Fairwriter Harold Bloom in his book Eve of Destruction, which detailed his involvement in the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Although Nasser, who humiliated the British Government at Suez, died in 1970, Mr Marwan, his son-in-law, was part of the inner circle of his successor, Anwar Sadat, who started the war.

The identity of the agent, described by a postwar Israeli inquiry commission only as “the source”, had been a closely guarded secret. Evidence pointed towards someone high in the Egyptian Establishment. From published accounts based on Israeli sources, it was alleged that Mr Marwan was a “walk-in” who entered an Israeli embassy in Europe and offered his services in 1969. Extensive checks convinced Mossad that he was not a double agent.

In the ensuing years Mr Marwan provided information on Egypt and the Arab world that Moshe Dayan, the Israeli Defence Minister, and others would later term priceless. Some believed that he was a double agent. Mr Marwan denied the claims, saying that he had never worked for the intelligence communities on any side. Mr Bloom acknowledged that he could be assassinated.

Mr Marwan was believed to have been born in Egypt into a wealthy family. He married Nasser’s daughter Muna in the 1960s and they had two sons and a number of grandchildren. Rumours of how he made his money have circulated within the Arab community for many years. Many say that he was an arms dealer and had been introduced to plenty of contacts by Sadat. Mr Marwan considered London his main home, according to friends, despite owning property across the world. Standing at 6ft 2in and very thin, he was seen at a social gathering in Central London last week with his wife.

Mr Marwan was a friend of Ken Bates, the former Chelsea chairman, and at one point held a 3 per cent share in Chelsea Village, one of the holding companies of the club. Later he was believed to be the subject of a Financial Services Authority inquiry into the sale of shares to Roman Abramovich, the current owner. He was also believed to have owned the Son Vida, one of the best hotels in Majorca.

Last night police kept a tight cordon around Carlton House Terrace, a white Grade I listed building overlooking St James’s Park that stretches between Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards Parade. Friends of the family said that Mr Marwan’s wife was flying back to Britain from Egypt.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said last night: “We were called at around 13.40 to Carlton House Terrace. The death is being treated as suspicious at this stage and the inquiries are under way.” 

See also: ‘London Balconies Mysteriously Kill Soad Hosni, El-Leithy Nassif…and Ashraf Marwan’ (Al-Masry Al-Youm, June 29, 2007)