Exclusive: Egypt’s security services use gangster Sabry Nakhnoukh to repress protests

109

Following the calls for protests in September 2019 by the actor and the dissident Egyptian army contractor Mohamed Ali, it was rumoured that there have been calls for large gatherings and counter-rallies to support the regime and the president, sponsored directly by the General Intelligence Service. When these calls were investigated, a name jumped out; it was the name of Sabry Nakhnokh, the most famous gangster in Egypt for the last three decades. “I received a call from one of the General Intelligence’s officers with whom I have had previous communications to discuss several matters. He was asking to meet with me,” says Hesham Salem, a pseudonym of a businessman who talked to Egypt Watch. “I went at the appointed time and the officer asked me for EGP 2 million to support the pro-al-Sisi demonstrations promising to pay them back to me through a contraction job that will be assigned to me. This kind of thing happens a lot, but what was new was that the officer named the person who will receive the money as Sabry Nakhnokh,” he continued.

Hesham was not the only one who has been asked to do so. During the course of our investigation, we discovered two other contractors and businessmen receiving direct work from the army and intelligence and to whom the same request was presented. These requests started during the 2019 protests and have continued during this year’s demonstrations also.

Through an investigation carried out by the author in September, it became clear that calls are being promoted to rally for the president’s support. Among the places we investigated were Mit Akaba, in the middle of Cairo the capital, Alexandria in the north, and al-Qalyubia in the Delta region. Such calls were repeated in the same manner over the past month by the same people.

Ahmed, also a pseudonym, works as a security guard at one of the trading centres in Shibin al-Qanatir, al-Qalyubia Governorate, in an area that was the electoral constituency of the member of the House of Representatives and the leader of the Tamarod Movement that opposed the late President Mohamed Morsi. He said, “I received several invitations from Mahmoud Badr’s men to join the demonstrations supporting the president, but I preferred to stay away from such invitations for fear of this ill-gotten money. However, twice I was asked insistently to join for money that was many times higher than what was usually offered as in both times I was offered EGP 2,000 a day. What was bizarre also is that he asked me to bring a blade weapon with me just in case we were faced with some of the traitors conspiring against the country, according to what Mahmoud’s messenger said.”

By investigating the matter, it was revealed that the same invitations were given to several people and Egypt Watch interviewed four of them. Some received invitations from Sabry Nakhnokh’s men in Alexandria, and others from people affiliated to a man named Loay Daabas, who is a retired wrestler well-known for his connections to the famous thug Sabry Nakhnokh.

Lately, Nakhnokh was seen in a demonstration surrounded by a group of thugs to support President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Alexandria. Afterwards, he publicly threatened the opposing actor and famous contractor Mohamed Ali in response to his renewed calls for demonstrations against Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Nakhnokh wrote on Mohamed Ali’s page, “I know how to deal with you, you traitor!”

Nakhnokh is considered the most famous thug in Egypt in the last 20 years. He played a prominent role in rallying thugs and assisting the Ministry of Interior’s forgery and citizens’ assaults during the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2000, then in 2005. During that period, he formed a close relationship with the former Minister of Interior, Habib al-Adly, and became one of the most important thugs’ suppliers in the Battle of the Camel for the elimination of the demonstrators in Tahrir square during the January Revolution in 2011.

Nakhnokh acts as the national thug leader in Egypt under the cover of several companies like construction and security escorts that goes by the name “Cairo Star.” He is the main supplier of private security and thugs for al-Haram street’s casinos and private evenings in el-Katameya and Saqqara, besides taking on the duties of securing the concerts of famous singers in Cairo and Alexandria. Many of the security affairs experts in Egypt look upon Nakhnokh as the parallel Minister of Interior or Interior Minister of the underground or secret world. His network includes thousands of thugs in several governorates.

Nakhnokh was arrested in August 2012 from inside his villa located in the King Marriot area, Alexandria, where he was accompanied by many outlaws, and a huge number of weapons and predator animals were seized. Alexandria Criminal Court sentenced him to 25 years of imprisonment for charges of possessing weapons and predator animals and another three years for using drugs. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a presidential pardon for him in May 2018.

A source close to the Presidential Pardon Committee says that Nakhnokh’s ransom was huge. Besides the EGP 20 million that a person close to the president received, several millions of pounds were distributed among the members of the Pardon Committee. The amnesty list was infused with a number of the oppositionists, including Muslim Brotherhood’s members and secular activists, so that Nakhnokh’s release is overlooked. The current regime considers Nakhnokh the striking force parallel to the opposition in Egypt.