New York, June 1: A businessman and former chairman of a major Egyptian bank denied charges that he sexually abused a housekeeper at a luxury New York City hotel.
Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar, wearing glasses and a suit, was arraigned just before midnight on Tuesday in Manhattan. The judge set bail at $25,000, and there was no immediate indication when Omar would post bail.
Authorities say the businessman, who is in his 70s, attacked a maid at The Pierre hotel, near Central Park and Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side.
His lawyer told the court that her client “adamantly denies the charges against him.”
“He realizes these are very, very serious charges, and he denies them. He wants to fight this case,” said Liz Beal, a Legal Aid attorney who said she was only representing Omar at his first court appearance and that he would seek private counsel.
She said he expected to post bail as quickly as possible.
Prosecutors called the prominent businessman an obvious flight risk. Judge Gerald Lebovits ordered Omar to surrender his travel documents, including his passport.
He was arraigned on two counts of sexual abuse and forcible touching.
Authorities say the maid was called to Omar's room Sunday evening to drop off tissues. District Attorney Nicole Blumberg said that when the victim entered the room, the defendant grabbed her in a bear hug and her kissed her on the lips and neck and told her repeatedly that he liked her, before grabbing her breasts.
The prosecutor said the maid tried to get away, but that he grabbed her in a second bear hug, grinding his groin against her leg. She broke away again, and the prosecutor said the defendant then squeezed her buttocks.
The maid told her superiors that she was assaulted that night, but they said it was best to wait until the following morning to report it to the security director, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The director called police Monday morning.
Officers canvassed the hotel room and the area around the hotel but didn't locate Omar. They returned about two hours later and found him in the lobby of The Pierre, where they arrested him at about 11 a.m., the official said, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
The defense attorney said Omar had come to New York to receive an award from the salt industry on behalf of his company and had planned to travel to Boston to sign a contract related to the award.
Omar chairs the board of the El-Mex Salines Co., a state-run salt production company, where he has worked since 2009, according to his attorney. She said he also had been a professor for seven years at the University of Alexandria. His biography on his company's website says he's a former chairman of Egypt's Bank of Alexandria, of the Egyptian American Bank and of the Federation of Egyptian Banks.
His attorney said he had been married for 48 years and has two adult children and has grandchildren. She said he is 72; police previously said he was 74.
Omar's arrest came little more than two weeks after then-International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn was charged with sexually assaulting a maid at a different Manhattan hotel. Strauss-Kahn, who has since resigned his IMF post, denies the allegations. He is under house arrest as he awaits trial.
The Pierre, owned by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces of India, said it would “fully comply with the investigation” in Omar's case, according to a statement read over the phone by a hotel manager.
“The Pierre's priority is the safety of our guests and staff,” the statement added.
New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said detectives found the complainant to be credible. He refused to comment on the nature of the attack and would not say whether Omar had made any statements to officials when he was arrested. AP