The prosecutor is also investigating Hossam Abul-Futtouh – best known as the agent for Germany’s BMW– and steel traders Hatem el-Hawary and Mohamed el-Gerhy over loans contracted from several Egyptian banks.

The Cairo daily Al-Ahram reported on 3 October that 35 business people in all are being investigated over loans totalling £E 37,000 million ($8,000 million). They include a number of notorious figures who have left the country – a leading healthcare investor, a retail investor involved in a failed venture with a large European supermarket chain and a prominent female banker.

These high-profile cases come as Central Bank of Egypt governor Mahmoud Abul-Eyoun has been urging banks, wherever possible, to reach amicable settlements with problem debtors (see Special Report, page 32).