Egyptian Businessman Arraigned in Hotel Sex Case

Hotel to give maids panic devices after alleged assault.

By Pei-Sze Cheng, Jonathan Dienst and Shimon Prokupecz
|  Wednesday, Jun 1, 2011  |  Updated 8:03 AM EDT
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An Egyptian businessman staying at The Pierre Hotel was arrested on allegations he sexually abused a hotel maid.

An Egyptian businessman staying at The Pierre Hotel was arrested on allegations he sexually abused a hotel maid.

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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, 74, wearing glasses and a suit, was arraigned just before midnight on Tuesday in Manhattan.

Authorities say the businessman attacked a maid at The Pierre hotel, near Central Park and Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side.      

He 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.

Meanwhile, The Pierre Hotel says it is purchasing panic devices for its room attendants.

The Pierre said Tuesday that it will acquire "emergency communication devices" after the incident Sunday, which came two weeks after a maid at the Sofitel said she was sexually assaulted by French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The alleged assaults have called attention to what some say is a re-occurring problem for maids in hotels. Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, said the Sofitel has also committed to the devices; the hotel did not immediately comment.

The union says it is researching what type of device to use and will recommend to the hotels.

In the latest case, police said Omar called housekeeping at The Pierre to bring him tissues at around 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Law enforcement officials tell NBC New York that when the maid arrived at room 1027 with three boxes of tissues, Omar answered the door wearing a "silk-type" garment and asked her to place them on a table near the bed.

According to law enforcement officials, Omar then grabbed the maid in a bear hug and began to kiss and fondle her, grabbing her breasts and rubbing against her.

She resisted and said "I'm not here for this," officials said.

He then locked the door to prevent her from leaving, before asking for her phone number, according to officials. When she gave him a number, police said, he let her out of the room.

Omar is currently the board chairman of the El-Mex Salines Co., a state-run salt production company, according to the company's website. It is the largest salt producer in Egypt and the Middle East, the website said.     

Company officials could not immediately be reached for comment.     

Omar is the former chairman of Egypt's Bank of Alexandria. He also served as board chairman of the Egyptian American Bank and chairman of the Federation of Egyptian Banks, according to his biography on the company's website.     

Previously, The Pierre said in a statement it will "fully comply with the investigation."

"The Pierre's priority is the safety of our guests and staff,'' the statement also said.

The Pierre is owned by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces of India.     

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