Hussein Abdullah and Tarek Amer: The General Intelligence manipulates the Central Bank of Egypt

The dismissal of the Central Bank of Egypt governor, Tarek Amer, represented an exceptional event in Egypt. In contrast, the country suffered one of the most striking economic crises over the past few decades. But the appointment of Hassan Abdullah proved not to be less controversial than the dismissal of Amer. The well-known banker that worked as the chairman of United Media, the state-sponsored media monopoly in Egypt, has faced several accusations of corruption and embezzlement.

Abdullah, born in 1960, got a Bachelor of Business Administration at the American University in Cairo in 1982 and a Master of Business Administration in 1992. Abdullah’s career as a banker started just after his graduation in 1982. He worked in the Arab African International Bank, founded in 1964 as a joint stock of the CBE and Kuwait’s Investment Authority. Abdullah was promoted until assuming the CEO and deputy chairman of the bank, the position he had kept for 16 years. In 2018, Amer overthrew Abdullah, whom Amer saw as a competitor in his position, from the AAI, by appointing him as assistant of the governor of the CBE to keep him in check. Abdullah resisted the decision seeking help from the Kuwaiti partners, but the then powerful Amer achieved his will. In 2019, the undercover conflict became public when reports accused Amer of using his authority to support his new wife, the ex-investment minister Dalia Khorshid, in his suspicious business work with the banks. Amer accused Abdullah of releasing the rumours against him and his wife.

In response, CBE accused Abdullah of easing credits of up to EGP 9.2 billion to elite clients that are not paying off instalments regularly, as well as committing other “blunt” violations like giving loans to companies Abdullah is a member of their boards. CBE accused Abdullah and a senior AAI official of embezzling up to USD 5.2 million in 2018. According to the CBE reports, Abdullah amended the bank’s regulations to allow him to take his dues in dollars without offering the amendment to the board. According to the amendment, Abdullah received USD 19.3 million from the bank. Despite these serious accusations, the CBE dismissed Abdullah without referring him to the public prosecution. After dismissal, Abdullah has built strong ties with the General Intelligence and its director, Abbas Kamel, who is known to be Sisi’s right arm. In May 2021, Abdullah was appointed as the chairman of United Media, the intelligence-owned media monopoly that manages media and production in Egypt.

The intervention of the General Intelligence in handling Egypt’s monetary policies through changing the central bank’s governors breaches the worldwide aggregated attitude of keeping central banks independent from political manipulations and games. The Egyptian constitution attempted to immunize the sensitive position by conditioning the dismissal of the bank’s governor by parliamentary approval. Still, with a puppet parliament like the current in Egypt, the presidency moves out of check, releasing the Intelligence’s hand to manipulate the country’s fate.