A man alleged to be one of Egypt’s most dangerous gangsters has been arrested in possession of drugs, weapons and exotic animals, in an action police said delivered a strong blow to the country’s organized crime networks.
Sabri Helmi, also known as Nakhnoukh, was ordered detained for prosecution together with his assistant Mohamed Sadek and 16 of his associates after ten hours of police interrogation in Alexandria, authorities said.
“Helmi’s arrest will definitely help track down other thugs that have been intimidating citizens for a long time, and the ministry is doing its best to disband all those criminal networks,” Major General Hani Abdul Latif, a spokesman at Egypt’s Ministry of Interior told Al Arabiya.
Helmis has reportedly denied any guilt and said his arrest was politically motivated.
Upon raiding his villa in an Alexandria suburb, police found automatic rifles and detonators, huge amounts of hashish, sexual stimulants, 50 bottles of alcohol, two wireless sets, and forged identification documents.
Five women and four men were also detained at villa at the time of the raid, in which police also found five lions, a tiger, snakes, an ostrich, dogs, and horses were on the property.
Investigators say Helmi resided on the first floor of his four-storey villa while the second floor was used as a night club, and the third contained five rooms that were used for prostitution. The fourth floor was under construction.
He faces several charges, including thuggery, illegal possession of arms and explosives, drug dealing, and running a prostitution network. Helmi is also accused of keeping wild animals without permission.
Helmi denied responsibility for all the charges leveled at him, telling Egyptian satellite channel al-Hayat that he had nothing to do with the drugs and weapons found in his villa. He also denied knowing any of the women found in his house, except for one who was a friend’s wife. Keeping exotic animals was just a hobby, he added.
Helmi, known for strong ties with members of the former ruling National Democratic Party, reportedly accused the Ministry of Interior of arresting him to curry favor with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is affiliated with Egypt’s current government.
“The Brotherhood wanted me arrested because I used to work with the former regime and the police arrested me to please them,” he told al-Hayat.
Helmi reportedly accused the ministry of taking direct orders from members of the ruling Freedom and Justice Party, and he had submitted to police a video in which one of the party’s leaders admits to instigating the ministry against him.