|Suzanne Mubarak (C) seen here with Hosni Mubarak (2nd-R) and their two sons Gamal (R) and Alaa (2nd-L). [AFP]
Suzanne Mubarak, wife of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, has suffered a "panic attack" after being notified of orders for her detention for 15 days on charges of illegal acquisition of wealth.
Though once low-key, the former first lady has recently become known for being a powerful player in the behind-the-scenes decision-making processes of her husband’s near 30-year rule.
Mubarak, nee Thabet, was born in 1941 in Menya, a town on the Nile River located about 250 km south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
The daughter of an Egyptian pediatrician and a Welsh nurse, she married Hosni Mubarak, then an officer in the Egyptian air force, when she was 17. She returned to school 10 years later after the birth of their two sons, Alaa and Gamal.
According to her resume, she holds a B.A. in political science and a master's degree in sociology at the American University in Cairo. Her thesis topic was "Social Action Research in Urban Egypt: Case study of primary school upgrading in Bulaq."
In the early years of her post as first lady, Mubarak limited her activities to domestic charities which later expanded to include international causes.
She headed a number of museums, libraries, foundations and activities, including the National Council for Women, the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, and the Suzanne Mubarak International Movement for Women and Peace. She has received numerous international awards including those from various United Nations institutions.
In a 1988 interview with The New York Times, Mubarak rejected the job description of "first lady", calling it "an import, a Western title" in Egypt.
"As wife or first lady, you must be committed to try and help solve these problems. There is so much to be done - the wife of the President doesn't have much choice - she is committed to help," she said.
The Times described her as "poised, and articulate, speaking in slightly accented English".
A more recent report painted a different portrait of Suzanne Mubarak.
Cables of the US embassy in Cairo, released in December 2010 by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, described her as one of the most influential players in Egyptian politics. They also identified her as an important force behind her younger son Gamal’s rise as an expected successor to his father.
An April 2006 US diplomatic cable identified Suzanne Mubarak as her younger son's most "ardent booster", referring to her being frequently photographed at public events with Gamal.
Other dispatches from the WikiLeaks cache mentioned her having reportedly commandeered a bus that was bought with money from the United States Agency for International Development for carrying children to school.
Another noted an opposition political group's 274-page report which detailed accusations of corruption by Mubarak and her two sons.
Charges of corruption
Media reports have said the Mubarak family's wealth could total billions of dollars.
The family has numerous bank accounts in foreign and local currencies, luxury apartments and villas, and valuable land holdings, a report by a financial oversight body said.
Egypt's anti-graft agency has been investigating allegations that the Mubarak family used their political power to amass their wealth illegally.
Since the ousting of her husband, Suzanne Mubarak had been in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, going back and forth between the hospital and their villa, which has an estimated value of $6 million.
On Friday, prosecutors asked Suzanne Mubarak about the $3.3 million held in her name in a Cairo bank as well as a luxurious home in the capital, Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.
Later that day, Mubarak fainted upon hearing news that authorities had ordered her detention, and was admitted to a hospital for a suspected heart attack and high blood pressure, her doctor said. Officials later downgraded the status of her condition to a "panic attack".
Al Jazeera correspondent Rawya Rageh reported that the former first lady is expected to be transferred to a detention facility in Cairo, most probably the Kanater Women's Prison.
Preparations are already under way for her move to the prison, to which she will be taken by plane "due to the danger of transporting her by road", Mohamed al-Khatib, head of south Sinai security, told MENA on Friday.