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Egypt court gives Mubarak associate seven years in prison for Israel gas deal

A Cairo court on Wednesday sentenced Hussein Salem, a close associate of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and co-defendant in a separate trial, to seven years in jail in for profiteering.

Salem, who fled to Spain after protesters revolted against Mubarak in January and was sentenced in absentia, was convicted along with his son Khaled and daughter Magida, who also fled the country, state news agency MENA reported.

Salem is a former partner in the East Mediterranean Gas Co, which was accused of selling natural gas to Israel at a low price.

The court also fined them $4 billion (2.9 billion euros) for making illicit gains from the supply of gas to Israel.

Salem faces similar charges over the gas deal with Mubarak, who is also being tried for ordering the killings of demonstrators during the protests that toppled him on February 11.

Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told reporters on Monday that Madrid was ready to extradite Salem, who is under arrest, if a Spanish court agreed.

Meanwhile, Egypt will soon finish drafting a new contract for gas exports to its neighbor Israel that includes a big increase in prices.

Gas supplies to Israel have been disrupted by a series of attacks on the pipeline in the Sinai border region by assailants believed to oppose the sale of gas to the Jewish state. The attacks became more frequent and supplies were halted after the overthrow of Mubarak in February.

Egypt’s army-backed government, under popular pressure to toughen its stance towards Israel, has sought to renegotiate the terms of the gas deal, complaining that the previous agreement signed under Mubarak fixed prices below market rates.

According to a Kuwaiti newspaper, the two sons of Mubarak received a hefty commission from Israel to back controversial natural gas exports to the Jewish state,

Al-Jarida daily said it obtained the documents, concerning Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, from a special department at the Egyptian interior ministry that was looking at the interests of the family of the former president toppled in a popular uprising last month.

Based on the documents, the paper said negotiations took place involving Israeli officials, former Egyptian oil minister Sameh Fahmi and Salem in January 2005.

Under a 2005 deal, the Cairo-based East Mediterranean Gas Company agreed to sell 1.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas to the Israeli company at a price reportedly set at $1.50 per million British thermal units (BTU).