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Egypt freezes assets of disaster ferry owner

Written by: Staff
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CAIRO, Apr 13 (Reuters) An Egyptian prosecutor today froze the assets of the businessman who owned the ferry which sank in the Red Sea in February with the loss of more than 1,000 lives, the state news agency MENA said.

Socialist Prosecutor Gaber Reihan, whose post dates from the nationalisation period of the 1960s, said he was freezing the assets of Mamdouh Ismail because a report on the ferry disaster showed he committed serious violations of safety regulations.

Ismail, owner of the ferry Salam 98 and a fleet of other Red Sea ferries, has already been stripped of his immunity as a member of the Shura Council or upper house of parliament.

The report on the disaster said that the ferry had forged safety certificates, the life rafts and fire extinguishers were unfit for use and the ship did not have enough winches to lower the rafts into the sea in an emergency, MENA said.

The vessel was originally licensed in Italy to carry 1,187 people but the owners obtained an Egyptian license to carry 2,890 people, in violation of international standards, it said.

It was carrying about 1,400 people when it sank.

Panama, which flagged the ferry, said it should not operate more than 20 miles from land but the owners later obtained other licenses to operate on international routes, in violation of Egyptian law and international agreements, it added.

''The investigations showed that the operation of the ferry confirmed an excessive greed and wilful desire to accumulate money, even at the expense of lives,'' it said.

The assets freeze also applies to members of Ismail's family and his companies, MENA said.

Reuters SHB BST1839

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