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EGYPT: 'Iron Lady' captured after 22 years on the run

August 29, 2009 |  9:46 am


Twenty-two years after she fled the country to Greece to escape charges of forgery and embezzlement of bank loans, an Egyptian businesswoman was detained Friday morning at Cairo International Airport upon her return from Athens.

Hoda Abdel-Monem, who was known as "The Iron Lady" during the '80s, became famous for establishing her own real estate and contracting company, Hedico, and luring thousands of Egyptians to buy units in her heavily advertised housing developments. 

She managed to collect nearly $9 million within a few years. But after selling 30% of the land to Abdel-Monem, the government backtracked on the deal, claiming that no projects were allowed to be carried out in that area.

Abdel-Monem was then asked to repay investors, and she was banned from leaving the country by the general prosecutor after her debts reached about $6 million.

She flew to Greece in 1987 after departing the Cairo airport disguised in all-covering Islamic garb. The news media suggested that she was aided by an unnamed government minister. A movie was made about the incident, called "Hoda and his Excellence, the Minister."

In 2000, Abdel-Monem was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor.

The 62-year-old appeared calm Friday after she was detained, and it is believed that her return came as part of a deal the government is reaching with a number of businesspeople who similarly left Egypt with large sums of investors' money and bank funds.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Hoda Abdel-Monem. Credit: Al Youm Al Sabee newspaper