Egyptian Lawmaker Accused of Paying $2M for Lebanese Pop Singer's Beheading

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An Egyptian lawmaker and business tycoon was arrested Tuesday in the death of a Lebanese pop singer, Egypt's chief prosecutor said, accusing the man of paying a former police officer $2 million to kill her.

Hisham Talaat, a lawmaker from the ruling party of President Hosni Mubarak, is accused of ordering the death of 30-year-old Suzanne Tamim, who was found decapitated in her Dubai apartment in July, chief prosecutor Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud told The Associated Press.

The death made waves in Egyptian media in early August and prompted a media ban in Egypt last month, following reports that high-profile Egyptian figures were involved.

Several Egyptian papers complained that the government was using the ban to protect the big businessmen who have been playing an increasingly prominent role in the authoritarian president's rule.

Talaat, a senior member of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, was reportedly being considered for a Cabinet post. His businesses include real estate and tourism developments in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. He owns several companies and is involved in the construction of upscale suburbs around Cairo.

Mahmoud, the prosecutor, said former police officer Mahmoud el-Sukkary was paid to follow Tamim from London to Dubai, where he bought a knife to kill her. He made his way into the singer's home pretending to be a real estate agent, then stabbed her to death.

Arab media has speculated that Talaat, a married father of three, was romantically involved with Tamim but Mahmoud did not indicate a motive.

Last month, the independent Egyptian Al-Dustour daily was barred from distribution after it published an article reporting the arrest of an Egyptian in the case. The identity of the arrested Egyptian was not revealed at the time, but Mahmoud said Tuesday it was the former officer, el-Sukkary, who was detained in Egypt 48 hours after Tamim's death.

The ban was never officially lifted, but the chief prosecutor's statement Tuesday was widely reported by Egyptian media.

Even before Talaat's arrest, rumors about his involvement prompted the value of his company's stock to plummet on the Egyptian market. In the last two days, the Talaat Mostafa Group's shares lost nearly a quarter of their value.

Tamim burst onto the Lebanese pop scene in 1996 after winning top prize in a TV talent show. But her career, which included albums produced by Arabic music giant Rotana, was overshadowed by a troubled private life and two high profile divorces.