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Beaten candidate, under graft probe, leaves Egypt

Ahmed Shafiq lost the Egyptian presidential race to Muslim Brotherhood-backed candidate Mohammed Morsi.EPA / Khaled El Fiqi

CAIRO - Defeated Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq left Egypt on Tuesday, local sources reported, a day after a prosecutor referred corruption lawsuits naming him to an investigating judge.

The state news agency MENA said Shafik left Cairo airport unaccompanied on a United Arab Emirates airline early on Tuesday. Shafik was on his way to a religious pilgrimage, aides said.

Shafik's rival Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was declared winner of a presidential run-off on Sunday.

A judicial source said the general prosecutor had transferred graft cases against Shafik to the investigating judge on Monday, Reuters reported.

The lawsuits allege that Shafik, a former air force commander, was involved in corrupt land deals and other corruption during his time as civil aviation minister between 2002 and 2011, the source said.

"Ahmed Shafik left today at dawn for Abu Dhabi and from there he will head to the holy lands of Saudi Arabia to perform the Omra (pilgrimage) before returning to his homeland Egypt,'' Shafik's campaign team said on his official Facebook page.

Analysis: Egypt elections only the beginning

Several of Shafik's associates could not immediately be reached for further comment.

Morsi, who like many Brotherhood figures spent time in jail during Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule, said during the election campaign that he was not out to settle scores against the ousted leader's former associates, but that anyone who had broken the law must be held to account.

Now Morsi faces a daunting struggle for power with the still-dominant military rulers who took over after Mubarak was forced out in last year's Arab uprising.  

Analysis: Egypt's big turn under Muslim Brotherhood

Mubarak made Shafik prime minister in January last year in an attempt to end mass protests against his rule. A few days later the president stepped down. Shafik lasted another three weeks before he, too, resigned.

Shafik was seen by many as the preferred presidential candidate of the generals who have ruled Egypt since Mubarak's overthrow in February last year.

A divisive figure, Shafik was seen as an outsider when the election campaign began. But his tough law-and-order platform appealed to many Egyptians tired of endless social and political turmoil since Mubarak's overthrow. 

Egypt's Morsi: Bloodshed will not be in vain

In a military career spanning four decades, Shafik served in wars with Israel and is credited with shooting down an Israeli aircraft in the 1973 war.

As civil aviation minister from 2002 to 2011, he overhauled the state airline EgyptAir and improved the country's airports.

NBC News, staff, Reutes and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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