Ashraf Marwan

Ashraf Marwan (Arabic: أشرف مروان‎‎, 2 February 1944 – 27 June 2007) was an Egyptian billionaire. Marwan worked as a spy for the Israeli Mossad, though some contend that he was a double agent.

Ashraf Marwan
Ashraf Marwan.jpg
Ashraf Abu El Wafa Marwan

(1944-02-02)2 February 1944
Cairo, Egypt
Died27 June 2007(2007-06-27) (aged 63)
London, England
OccupationDiplomat and Businessman
Known forMisleading Israel in 1973 war.[1]
Spouse(s)Mona Gamal Abdel Nasser

From 1969, Marwan served in the Presidential Office, first under Gamal Abdel Nasser and then as a close aide to his successor, President Anwar Sadat. In 2002 it became known that, during the period leading up to the October 1973 War, Dr. Marwan was recruited by Egyptian Intelligence and may have fed the Israeli Mossad with misleading information prior to the 1973 Arab-Israel war.[1] Marwan died under mysterious circumstances in June 2007, "falling" from the balcony of his London house. His wife and relatives testified that prior to his death he expressed concerns that he was being followed. His wife accused the Mossad of the assassination[1][2]

Early life and educationEdit

Marwan was born in Egypt on 2 February 1944 to a respected family. His grandfather was the chief of the Sharia courts in Egypt, and his father, a military officer, reached the rank of General in the Egyptian Republican Guard.[3] In 1965, at the age of 21, Marwan graduated Cairo University with a degree in chemical engineering and was conscripted into the army. That same year he met Mona Nasser, the president's second daughter, who was 17 at the time. She fell in love with him, but her father suspected that Marwan's interest in his daughter stemmed more from her political status than her personal charms.[4] Nevertheless, under her pressure, he agreed to the marriage, which took place in July 1966.[5]

In 1968 Marwan started working in the Presidential Office under Sami Sharaf, Nasser's aide-de-camp and the strongman of the Egyptian security service, who kept an eye on him. In late 1968 Marwan, Mona, and their new-born son, Gamal, left for London, allegedly for the continuation of Marwan's studies. A few months later, the young couple was ordered by Nasser, who was irritated by information concerning their lavish lifestyle, to return to Egypt, where Marwan continued working under Sami Sharaf.[6]


Marwan's service at the Presidential Office lasted eight years (1968–1976). Although, under Nasser, he held only a junior position, the president used him sometimes for delicate missions such as calming the crisis that erupted after General Saad el-Shazly's resignation from the army when his rival was nominated as chief of staff.[7] After Nasser's death in September 1970, Marwan became a close aide to Sadat, who needed him by his side in order to demonstrate that he had the support of Nasser's family. Before 1973 war, Marwan's skills caught the attention of Sadat, who nominated him to be in charge of foreign relations. In his new capacity, Marwan developed excellent relations with the Saudi and the Libyan leaderships and had a major role in persuading Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to impose an embargo against the United States in retaliation for the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military and to gain leverage in the post-war peace negotiations. [8] [9] Saudi Arabia and many other Arab countries supplied Egypt with critical financial and military assistance before the 1973 War. He succeeded in the recruitment of Saudi Arabia and Libya in the preparations for 1973 war and played a major role in the alliance with King Faisal, of Saudi Arabia in 1973 oil embargo causing oil crisis in the US who already by 1969 has suffered from a domestic output of oil and could not keep pace with increasing demand and 1973-1975 recession.[10][9] Sadat who recognized Dr. Marwan's brilliance, recruited him to lead the negotiation with Libya that delivered to Egypt Mirage-5 aircraft that were considered critical for the coming war against Israel. Marwan managed the Libyan-Egyptian deal,[9] which was followed by leveraging his status in Sadat's eyes and among Arab countries. Dr. Marwan started to increasingly deal with international weapon trade that helped him to build his wealth, and in 1981 he bought heavy weapons from the US to supply an Arab country with that weapon.[9] However, weapons were intended to the Palestinian militias in Lebanon, whom he transferred the weapons to.[9][11]

Leadup to October 1973 WarEdit

Egypt had begun preparing a war with the aim of retaking the Sinai Peninsula that it had lost to the Israelis in 1967 Six Day War. Marwan's unparalleled access to his nation's best-kept secrets, especially after his promotion in May 1971, allowed him to provide Israel with information about the coming war, including the full Egyptian war plans, detailed accounts of military exercises, original documentation of Egypt's arms deals with the Soviet Union and other countries, the Egyptian military Order of Battle, the minutes from meetings of the high command, accounts of Sadat's private conversations with other Arab leaders and even the minutes of secret summit meetings in Moscow between Sadat and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.[12]

The information that Marwan provided made its way to the desks of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, and Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff Chaim Bar-Lev in raw form. It shaped Israel's strategic and tactical approach to Egypt and allowed the Israelis a direct look at Egypt's war calculus, including Sadat's minimal requirements for launching a war: mainly long-range attack aircraft and Scud missiles without which Egypt could not have overcome Israeli air superiority.[5]: 74, 114 

October 1973 WarEdit

In April 1973, Dr. Marwan, persuaded the Israeli Mossad that Egypt planned to attack in mid-May.[1] Consequently, Israel raised its state-of-military readiness, but the war did not come. In October, he tricked the Israeli Mossad once more deliberately feeding the Mossad misleading information. Eli Zeira Director of Aman, Israel's military intelligence, during the 1973 October War, said that the Israeli Agranat Commission, which investigated Israeli leaders for the reasons behind their failure in the war, said that Marwan who was known by many nicknames very cleverly conveyed and convinced the Israeli with misleading information concerning the 1973 war under the direction of Egyptian president Anwar Alsadat only to deceive the Israelis and earn their trust.[1]

According to the Israeli Agranat Commission, "The Concept" states that "Egypt will only attack, if the war is carried out in partnership with Syria, with modern aircraft and other weapons that guarantee Egyptian superiority over the Israeli air force." "How can such a senior Egyptian official come to the Israeli embassy in London in broad daylight, while he and his leaders know that this embassy, like other Israeli embassies abroad, is being monitored by dozens of intelligence agencies around the world?" Zeira questioned.[1] In autumn 1973, Sadat decided to launch a war without waiting for the arms that had been his precondition, and Egypt accelerated its war preparations. Marwan reported on Sadat's decision and the military preparations for war but expressed his opinion that, ultimately, Egypt would be deterred from militarily challenging Israel. Israeli military intelligence leaders, including Eli Zeira, due to the May false alarm, refused to accept the evidence of numerous warnings and indicators that the Arabs planned to attack. Accordingly, Israel was caught by surprise in the 1973 war.[11]


In an interview, Dr. Marwan's son, Gamal Marwan, stated that the Israelis became aware that Dr. Marwan misled them, causing the Israelis the biggest loss in deaths, casualties and weapons since 1948.[13] According to the White House military briefing and The Yom Kippur War by Abraham Rabinovich, Israeli casualties were 2,800 dead, 8,800 wounded, 293 captured.[1]

Secretary to the President of the Republic for Foreign RelationsEdit

After the 1973 war, Marwan continued his way to the top. On 14 February 1974 he became Secretary to the President of the Republic for Foreign Relations,[14] a new position that reflected Sadat's ruling style. Given Sadat's dissatisfaction with the conduct of his foreign minister, Ismail Fahmy, Marwan was considered as a candidate to replace him.[5]: 245–246 

By that stage, however, Marwan had accumulated a considerable number of personal enemies, who accused him of using his closeness to Sadat to gain personal wealth. When the accusations gained momentum, Sadat had to yield to the pressure and, in March 1976, ended Marwan's service in the Presidential Office.[15][16]

Arab Organization for IndustrializationEdit

Marwan was nominated to head the Arab Organization for Industrialization, an arms production complex in Cairo that was financed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. Following additional political pressures, Sadat had to relieve him from that position in October 1978.[17]


Following Sadat's assassination in October 1981, Marwan left Egypt and started a business career in London. He gained a reputation as a mysterious man, who did not play according to the rules of the City. Among others he was involved in the failed attempt by Tiny Rowland to take over the House of Fraser, a group of department stores, whose jewel in the crown was Harrods, where the English aristocracy used to shop. Marwan amassed significant wealth the source of which has never been disclosed.[citation needed]

In 1995, during a dispute for control of Chelsea FC between the sitting[18] chairman Ken Bates and Matthew Harding, it was revealed in the media that Marwan owned 1.5 million shares at the club.

Dr. Marwan worked closely with the Egyptian intelligence implanting Marwan as a double agent is a traditional Russian tactic in which the agent feeds his victim with 95 percent of accurate information and at the critical moment, conveys the false data.[1] Yuri Bar Yosef, Professor of Political Science at the University of Haifa published a book, which was recently produced into a movie, entitled "The Angel." The book confirmed that Marwan was a double agent who collected information for Israel but, was formerly working for Egypt.[1]

Some Israeli officials refused to accept the fact that he was playing the Mossad into his hands and claim that Dr. Marwan worked for the Mossad only, however, all evidence is to the contrary of this claim.[9] [19] An Israeli author in 2002 was one of those false claims Ahron Bregman. Bregman's source was Maj. Gen. (ret.) However, Eli Zeira, the director of Israel's Military Intelligence in 1973 said that the Israeli Agranat Commission, which investigated Israeli leaders for the reasons behind their failure in the war, said that Dr. Marwan conveyed accurate information to Israeli intelligence only to deceive them and earn their trust.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Marwan married Mona Abdel Nasser in the 1960s. One of Marwan's sons was married to the daughter of former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa. His son, Gamal, is a close friend of Gamal Mubarak, the son of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.[5]: 322 


Marwan died on 27 June 2007 outside his flat in Carlton House Terrace, London. The cause of death was traumatic aortic rupture following a fall from the balcony of his fifth-floor apartment. News reports indicate that the Metropolitan Police Service increasingly believe Marwan was murdered, a belief also held by Marwan's elder son, Gamal. Marwan's funeral in Egypt was led by Egypt's highest-ranked religious leader, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, and attended by, amongst others, Gamal Mubarak, son of the former (then current) Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. According to President Mubarak, "Marwan carried out patriotic acts which it is not yet time to reveal."[20] Following a case review in January 2008, the investigation was transferred to the Specialist Crime Directorate, both because of its public nature and because the shoes Marwan was wearing when he fell, key evidence in the case, had been lost.

One witness, who was on the third floor of a nearby building, told police that he saw two men "wearing suits and of Mediterranean appearance" appear on the balcony moments after Marwan's fall, look down, and then return inside the apartment. Police are also reported to have lost Marwan's shoes, which could hold clues on whether or not Marwan jumped from the balcony.[21]

Marwan is the fourth Egyptian of note to die in London in a similar manner.[22] The others, all of whom were involved in Egyptian politics between 1966 and 1971, are actress Suad Hosni; Egyptian ambassador to Greece Al-Leithy Nassif;[23] and Ali Shafeek, secretary in the office of former Egyptian Vice President Abdel Hakim Amer.[22]

At the time of the investigation, Marwan's wife said she believed that Mossad was behind his death.[24] However, an analysis in The Guardian found this scenario to be unlikely: "For one thing, killing a former agent after his name is revealed would seem to be a major disincentive for new recruits. Even if Israel believed that Marwan was a double agent, working for the Egyptians, better to do nothing and, through their silence, imply he was faithful to their cause."[25] Further, Marwan was at least the third Egyptian living in London to die under similar circumstances, all of whom had ties with the Egyptian security services.[25]

Egyptian journalist Amr Ellissy conducted an investigation into Marwan's death for his documentary series Ekhterak, broadcast on Egyptian television in six episodes on the first anniversary of Marwan's death. Ekhterak was filmed in Marwan's London apartment and included interviews with his son, a witness, and acquaintances of Marwan. Ellissy published his book The Agent Babel in Arabic through Dar Al Shorouq press, and it was launched on 2 February 2009.

The British magazine Private Eye also followed the story closely and suggested that there was considerable cause for suspicion surrounding the circumstances of Marwan's death.


Ahron Bregman published in 2016 a book on his relationship with Marwan called The Spy Who Fell to Earth. In 2017, Salon Productions purchased the rights to turn the book into a feature documentary.[26] This feature documentary, also entitled The Spy Who Fell to Earth, was directed by Thomas Meadmore and released by Netflix in 2019.

Professor Uri Bar-Joseph wrote a book published in 2016, The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, later used as the basis of a Netflix film, The Angel. Bar-Joseph's book addresses whether Marwan was a genuine spy or a double agent. In a review of the book in the CIA's Studies in Intelligence, Thomas G. Coffey states that it persuasively "argues that the nature of the intelligence Marwan gave the Israelis was simply too destructive of Egyptian interests" for Marwan to have been a double agent and that it offers "a convincing defense" against the claim that the intelligence he provided was "late, flawed, and of little practical use".[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Ashraf Marwan; Protagonist Who Misled Israel - Sada el balad". 7 October 2018.
  2. ^ Syal, Rajeev. "'Egyptian spy' could not have killed himself, say friends".
  3. ^ Thawrat, Muhammad (2008). Ashraf Marwan: Fact and Illusion. Madbuli. pp. 19–20.
  4. ^ The Opportunist: "The Bright Side of the Moon. Egyptian Chronicles, 28 June 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d Bar-Joseph, Uri. The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel. p. 15.
  6. ^ Halef al-Tawil, Kamal (7 February 2007). Ashraf Marwan: The Dilemma Child. Al-Akhbar al-Lebnaniya.
  7. ^ el Shazly, Saad (2003). The Crossing of the Suez. San Francisco: American Mideast Research. pp. 184–185.
  8. ^ "Milestones: 1969–1976 - Office of the Historian".
  9. ^ a b c d e f برنامج اختراق - من قتل أشرف مروان الجزء الثالث | مع د.عمرو الليثي. عمرو الليثى - Amr Ellissy. 11 October 2016. Archived from the original on 23 April 2021. Retrieved 29 August 2021 – via YouTube.
  10. ^ "The Truth About the 1973 Arab Oil Crisis".
  11. ^ a b "المقالات | الموقع الرسمي للإعلامي عمرو الليثي اقسام الفيديوهات | الموقع الرسمي للإعلامي عمرو الليثي".
  12. ^ Haykal, Muḥammad Ḥasanayn; Heikal, Mohamed; Haykal, Mu (1983). Autumn of Fury: The Assassination of Sadat. ISBN 9780394531366.
  13. ^ برنامج اختراق - من قتل أشرف مروان الجزء الأول - د.عمرو الليثي. عمرو الليثى - Amr Ellissy. 11 October 2016. Retrieved 29 August 2021 – via YouTube.
  14. ^ "Al Ahram". 15 February 1974.
  15. ^ Jamaa, Mohamed (1988). I Knew Sadat: Half a Century of Secrets About Sadat and the [Muslim] Brotherhood. Cairo.
  16. ^ Sabri, Musa (1985). Sadat: The Truth and the Legend. Cairo: Al-Maktab al-Masry al-Hadeth. pp. 651–662.
  17. ^ "Al Ahram". 13 October 1978.
  18. ^ News of the World 26 November 1995
  19. ^ "Mossad agents murdered my husband, says widow of billionaire arms dealer". 10 July 2010.
  20. ^ Sirrs, Owen L. (2010). A History of the Egyptian Intelligence Service: A History of the Mukhabarat, 1910-2009. Routledge. p. 132. ISBN 9780415569200.
  21. ^ Whaley, Barton (2016). Turnabout and Deception: Crafting the Double-Cross and the Theory of Outs. Naval Institute Press. pp. I94–I96. ISBN 9781682470299.
  22. ^ a b Goudsouzian, Tanya (1 June 2014). "Death by balcony in Egypt". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  23. ^ "Egyptian X-File: Stuart Tower, The beginning". Egyptian Chronicles. Blogspot. 21 May 2010. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  24. ^ Syal, Rajeev (10 July 2010). "Mossad agents murdered my husband, says widow of billionaire arms dealer". The Guardian. She believes he was killed by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency,
  25. ^ a b Parkin, Simon (15 September 2015). "Who killed the 20th century's greatest spy?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  26. ^ White, Peter (4 December 2017). "Salon Pictures Sets Up Israeli Spy Feature Doc With Kew Media Group". Deadline. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  27. ^ Coffey, Thomas G. (6 March 2017). "Review: The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel". Central Intelligence Agency Library. Intelligence in Public Media.