- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2011

NEW YORK — A businessman and former chairman of a major Egyptian bank charged with sexually abusing a housekeeper at a luxury Manhattan hotel is being held on $25,000 bail and has been ordered to hand over his passport because he is considered a flight risk.

Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar, wearing glasses and a suit, was arraigned just before midnight on Tuesday in Manhattan. 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.

The hotel, meanwhile, suspended the supervisor of housekeeping for not reporting the alleged assault.

Omar was arraigned on two counts of sexual abuse and forcible touching.

His lawyer, Liz Beal, 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 Beal, a Legal Aid attorney who said she was representing Omar at his first court appearance and that he would seek private counsel.

Beal said Omar 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.

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 that as the maid tried to get away, 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.

Pierre spokeswoman Nora Walsh said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday that the supervisor of housekeeping was suspended pending an investigation.

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 Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that The Pierre will supply panic buttons for all of the hotel’s room attendants.

Walsh told the newspaper the alarms will be made available as soon as a system can be put in place.

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 site says he has served as chairman of Egypt’s Bank of Alexandria, the Egyptian American Bank and the Federation of Egyptian Banks.

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.

His attorney said he has 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 from his IMF post, denies the allegations. He is under house arrest as he awaits trial.

New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne refused to comment on the nature of the attack and would not say whether Omar made any statements to officials when he was arrested.

Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.


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