CAIRO — Egypt's Mubarak-era culture minister, Faruk Hosni, was on Tuesday referred to a criminal court on charges of corruption, Deputy Justice Minister for illicit gains Assem al-Gohari said.
Hosni, who served under ousted president Hosni Mubarak for more than two decades, is accused of having illegally acquired 18 million Egyptian pounds (nearly $3 million), which he is now being asked to return, state media said.
According to a judicial source, Hosni had illegally acquired nine million Egyptian pounds and is being asked to return them as well as pay a nine million Egyptian pound fine.
The former minister had so far escaped the wide net cast by authorities after Mubarak's overthrow in 2011 that saw dozens of ex-ministers and businessmen associated with the old regime behind bars on corruption charges.
Gohari's decision comes after a long investigation during which Hosni "could not provide legitimate sources for the wealth he accrued," the official MENA news agency said.
Hosni was last year placed on a travel ban, along with a host of officials, shortly after the uprising that brought Mubarak's regime down but the ban was later lifted.
The former minister stirred controversy abroad over statements in which he told an Islamist MP that he would personally burn any Israeli books found in Egyptian libraries.
Many believe that those remarks cost him his bid to head the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2009.
He blamed a "Zionist lobby" for his defeat after Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova won the post.
Others fumed that Egypt's national heritage suffered under Hosni, with many buildings and establishments neglected during his long tenure.
In 2010, a painting by Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh valued at more than $50 million was stolen from a museum in central Cairo.
Several hours after the theft, Hosni had announced that the painting had been found, but was forced to backtrack later and blamed a ministry employee.
The investigation into the theft showed that of 47 surveillance cameras installed in the museum, 30 had not been working since 2006 and that most of the time, only one security guard was on duty.
The theft exposed the deplorable security in several Egyptian museums, many housing priceless artefacts that date back to the Islamic and Ancient Egyptian periods.
Hosni joins a long list of Mubarak-era ministers, officials and businessmen facing prosecution on corruption charges.
An ailing Mubarak is currently in jail for his involvement in the deaths of protesters during the uprising that toppled him. He and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal -- once the country's symbols of wealth and power -- were acquitted in a corruption trial on a technicality.
The two Mubarak sons now face a new trial over accusations of insider trading along with seven other defendants.
They have remained in prison pending investigations into the new case.
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