A court today convicted Esmat Sadat, half-brother of the late president Anwar Sadat, and three of Esmat's sons on charges of fraud and corruption. It sentenced the four to one year in prison and sequestered the family fortune estimated by the state at $148 million.
Sadat's daughter, Nadia, was acquitted, and the fate of six other family members also on trial was not immediately clear.
As Judge Ahmed Khafagi read the sentence after a two-month trial, family members in the courtroom shouted out, "This is a betrayal of Sadat's memory," and "We are ruled by members of Al Capone's gang."
Defense lawyer Abdel Moneim Sharkawi said he planned to appeal, but the likelihood of the sentences being overturned appeared slim.
President Hosni Mubarak already has made it clear that the trial is intended to show that nobody in Egypt is above the law and that he is serious about a crackdown on corruption and the abuse of office that had become widespread under president Sadat.
There is speculation that at least three current ministers, whose names were mentioned during the trial, soon may be dismissed and a new Cabinet may be formed.
Because of the involvement of the Sadat family, the trial drew enormous attention in the local press and came to be regarded as a cause celebre. The Egyptian public is thought certain to approve of the sentences and also to expect that more former and current high officials and ministers will go on trial on similar charges.
Judge Khafagi said that Esmat Sadat and his three sons would be held in "a safe place" for one year and hinted that the sentence might be extended for four more years if the state prosecutor requested it.
Sadat and his sons had tried to hide behind the name of the family to gain public and court sympathy, but the tactic seems to have backfired.
Even as the four were led away, one of the sons, Talaat, screamed out, "We, the family of Sadat, the great hero of peace, are now held as traitors."
Ironically, the trial took place before a special court of ethics set up by president Sadat during the last years of his lfe under a "law of shame" dealing with various public offenses like corruption and abuse of office.
There was good evidence that the late president was well aware of his half-brother's excesses, as at one point he ordered him banned from the country's duty-free zones and the port of Alexandria where Esmat Sadat had obtained imported goods that he later sold on the black market. But the president never acted to put Esmat on trial.
Esmat Sadat, 57, was a bus driver earning $80 a month before he began in 1973 to amass his fortune.
He was reported to have real estate in seven provinces, including a 54-room mansion outside Cairo, at least five import-export companies and his own fleet of trucks. He was alleged to have used his name to acquire land illegally, swindle other Egyptians in housing deals and to wheel and deal in imported goods like meat, wood, iron and steel.
The indictment said he was guilty of "acts that harmed the country's economy and corrupted its political life, amassing a fortune by usurping state-owned property."
Esmat Sadat, his sons and their families will now return to the same low economic status that they had a decade ago. The court has ordered that they be allowed only $120 a month out of their impounded wealth as a subsistence allowance until further notice.