By HAMZA HENDAWI
CAIRO (AP) - Hosni Mubarak's two sons were accused Wednesday with insider trading in a new case opened just three days before they and their elderly father are to hear the verdict in a separate trial on charges of corruption and complicity in killing protesters during last year's uprising.
The prosecutions of the Mubarak family and its cronies had seemed to be part of a process of dismantling the old regime ousted in the uprising. But now Mubarak's last prime minister and longtime protege is one of two candidates heading into a runoff vote for president in just a few weeks.
The new case, which was referred to trial, was interpreted as a timely attempt by Egypt's military rulers to assuage anger over the possible ascent to the presidency of Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak and, like his mentor, a former air force commander. Shafiq is widely viewed as an extension of the Mubarak regime remembered for authoritarianism, corruption and a brutal police force.
"It's an attempt to ease the popular anger over Shafiq," said Shady el-Ghazali Harb, a key leader of the anti-Mubarak uprising. "It is a theatrical move by the generals to create the illusion that there is no question of showing leniency to the old regime."
Mubarak and his two sons, the one-time heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa, are already on trial for separate charges of corruption. They have all been in prison since April 2011, two months after a popular, 18-day uprising forced Mubarak to step down after 29 years in office.
Mubarak, 84 and ailing, faces additional charges of complicity in the death of some 900 protesters during the uprising. But his sons are not charged in the protester killings. The former leader could get the death penalty if convicted on the charges linked to killing protesters.
A statement by the prosecutor-general's office on the new charges said the Mubarak sons, along with seven others, made 2 billion Egyptian pounds in illicit gains. Their actions violated central bank and stock market regulations, it said.
The nine are accused of conspiring to stealthily buy a controlling 80 percent stake in Al Watany Bank of Egypt without declaring their share to the stock market authority, it added. They later traded its shares through closed funds and investment companies based abroad.
"They deliberately withheld this essential information on the sale of the bank from other share traders to execute their criminal plot and violate the principles of transparency and equality between traders," said the statement. It did not specify the role of each of the nine defendants nor announce a date for the trial.
The seven other defendants are free on bail but banned from leaving the country.
The prosecutor's statement said Gamal, 48, unlawfully made a profit of nearly 500 million Egyptian pounds from the sale of the Al Watany Bank of Egypt and that his brother Alaa, believed to be around 50, used insider information about the bank to reap an illegal profit of some 12 million Egyptian pounds.
Two of the seven men charged along with the Mubarak sons are the joint chief executive officers of Hermes, one of the Middle East's top investment banks with branches in nine Arab nations. They are Yasser El-Malawny and Hassan Heikal, son of Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, Egypt's best known political writer and a longtime confidante of the late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser.
Late Wednesday, Hermes said in a statement that its two chief executives acted properly in the aqcuisition of the Al Watany bank, in which the National Bank of Kuwait took nearly a 100 percent stake in November 2007.
"The two chief executive officers had no personal interest, gain or any dealings or trading in the shares of the Al Watany Bank of Egypt," it said, adding that the company has taken the necessary legal actions to defend them.
The three Mubaraks, along with the ousted leader's security chief and four of his top aides, will hear the court's verdict on the case already in progress on June 2.
Gamal Mubarak was viewed by many as a corrupt politician who used his father's position to illegally amass a fortune while working along with a coterie of regime-backed wealthy businessmen and powerful politicians to ensure that he succeeded his father.
He rapidly rose to the top of his father's ruling National Democratic Party to become its de facto boss on the eve of his father's ouster, when he also was effectively running Egypt's day-to-day affairs. At the time of the uprising, there was growing anxiety in Egypt that his succession was imminent. That anxiety is seen as one of the key sparks for the uprising that overthrew Mubarak.