In 2008 Forbes estimated the Sawiris family\'s net worth at $36bn
\"Naguib Sawiris is being punished because he wouldn\'t comply,\" Egyptian judge Tahani Guebali told Arabstoday at a conference held in Cairo Thursday in support of the Sawiris family - the Egyptian Coptic family who own the Orascom
conglomerate, spanning telecommunications, construction, tourism, industries and technology.
The conference, which tackled the Sawiris family crisis in light of the theme of \"patriotic capitalism,\" also boasted speakers Osama el-Ghazali Harb, the member of the opposition bloc the National Salvation Front (NSF) and the director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, Saad el-Dine Ibrahim.
\"Egypt is being politically and economically eroded,\" Guebali said, adding: \"Under the former regime, Egyptian society experienced a period of massive erosion that scattered its capacities, but it rose up, and now the new regime is going for a re-run of the same old scenario.
\"The regime is targeting one section of society, businessmen, in a bid to either bring them to heel or kick them out of the country.\"
Speaking to Arabstoday at a conference held Thursday in support of the Sawiris family, she said: \"No businessman is above the law, but what\'s happening here is that there is bargaining backstage. What\'s happening to businessman Naguib Sawiris proves this. Drummed-up charges are the order of day now. The rule of law has vanished, the judicial branch has been weakened and there is a privately-owned public prosecution in place.\"
\"Naguib Sawiris is being punished because he wouldn\'t comply and was trying to build a new national entity in the form of el-Kotla el-Masriya (the Egyptian Bloc) which he established after the revolution. The bloc did join in the political battle and has left its mark. He\'s now being punished for that. Therefore, the issues is not an accumulated tax bill. If it was as simple as that, then we\'d welcome it under the banner of the law, but not under the banner of score-settling.\"
Warning that \"targeting businessmen\" will have an adverse effect on Egypt\'s economy, the judge said: \"Capitalism has been there at every stage of Egypt\'s history. Businessmen always tried to give and play a part in building the nation, which one saw quite clearly during the nationalisation period following the July Revolution. The same businessmen who had their possessions and properties seized by the state were also very keen that their nationalised businesses continue to flourish. They didn\'t try to exact revenge from the regime. Afterwards, building a class of patriotic businessmen became an objective in order to help everyone. This happened individually at first, but was then institutionalised because Egyptian businessmen do believe in the concept of social capitalism.\"
Harb told Arabstoday the situation in Egypt brought to mind the circumstances surrounding the 1919 uprising \"particularly because the public rejection and disobedience has spread into all provinces as was the case over the British occupation.\"
Remarking on the assumption some carry that the army will intervene, he said: \"It\'s quite likely to happen because of the deterioration in law and order and basic services. The majority of the Egyptian public would be alright with this option, because the Egyptian army\'s has always stood alongside the public.
\"As an institution, the army embodies the Egyptian identity. Our current rulers represent an international cabal, not the Egyptian people.\"
He added: \"Some people look at the Sawiris family crisis as one with a religious and sectarian aspect and we insist that religion is not the issue for us, but the values of equality of all citizens must be endorsed.
\"The real problem is that, when the January revolution broke out, the people were looking forward to establishing a democratic, multiparty system. And the elections did take place and one entity, the Freedom and Justice Party, won a majority of the seats. But, in reality, some untoward activities had taken place and vote-buying was the hallmark of that election. We\'d imagined the majority would try to form a political coalition that includes all sections of Egyptian society so that power can be shared among everyone, but they didn\'t do that. As soon as they became a majority, they started implementing their plan for Brotherhoodisation [a word used in Egypt to indicate the Muslim Brotherhood\'s alleged bid to take control over all aspects of the state] in a crude, strange fashion.
\"This took place in all state institutions, and the public have begun to send this threat. The public has also begun to declare its anger. I wouldn\'t have imagined that the Egyptian public\'s hatred could prompt them to torch the offices of the Brotherhood\'s party and protest against them all over Egypt. Despite our rejection of vandalism, destruction and violence, these events proved that these people are hated by most sections of Egyptian society.\"
The opposition figure went on: \"I know the Sawiris family very well and became close to Naguib Sawiris over the past few years. He is a genuine patriot and I have come to love him. He was one of the key businessmen who helped support Egypt\'s economy and has also played a prominent political role. When he learned I was planning to establish the Democratic Front party, he offered to fund it without me asking. He has always been the one to take the first step.\"
The NSF member also accused the Muslim Brotherhood and its leadership of attempting to drive Egypt\'s business leaders out of the country \"having already succeeded at driving political leaders away.\" He said: \"Having hijacked the revolution, the Brotherhood are now trying to tighten the noose around businessmen including the Sawiris family.\"
Ibrahim told Arabstoday: \"There are many potential solutions to the Sawiris crisis, but they\'re only feasible if the political regime has the will and desire to resolve the problem. Onsi Sawiris and the tax authority were negotiating a settlement, but then an arrest warrant was signed for him and his name was placed on watch lists at airports.
\"This indicates that the problem is of a political nature.\"