CAIRO — Egyptian authorities arrested on Thursday former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly and two other ex-ministers who are under investigation for corruption, security officials said.RELATED:The Region: Egypt’s next chapterLion's Den: Egypt’s chance
Authorities also arrested steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, once a prominent member of the ouster leader Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party.
El-Adly, whose job gave him control over the 500,000-strong security forces, has been widely blamed for the deadly brutality used by riot police against demonstrators in massive protests that began Jan. 25 and forced Mubarak to step down Feb. 11. El-Adly served in his former post for 12 years.
News of el-Adly's arrest followed the detention earlier Thursday of former Housing Minister Ahmed Maghrabi, ex-Tourism Minister Zuheir Garana and Ezz.
All four face allegations that range from money laundering to abuse of authority and squandering state wealth.
The protesters who ousted Mubarak in 18 days of demonstrations against his regime often mentioned the deep corruption of the regime as a key reason behind their movement.
The security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said all four of the men would also be initially held for 15 days.
All four had previously been banned from travel abroad and had their assets frozen, measures that are normally a prelude to a criminal investigation and possible trial. They are among some dozen ex-ministers and businessmen who are under investigation for corruption or abuse of authority.
Most of those under investigation belonged to a clique of businessmen-turned-politicians who rallied around Mubarak's son and one-time heir apparent Gamal in the ruling party. Gamal Mubarak, 47, rose rapidly through the ranks of the party over the past decade to become the most powerful politician in Egypt after his 82-year-old father.
Gamal Mubarak and his circle of businessmen have been blamed for orchestrating economic reform that liberalized the economy but left the country's poor masses unable to reap the benefits of economic growth.
Ezz, an upstart who used his vast wealth to promote his political career, is widely blamed for the widespread fraud that marred parliamentary elections held in November and December. The ruling part won all but a small fraction of the chamber's 518 seats. Ezz has denied the charge in a TV interview.