Wheat is seen in a field during the harvest on Qalyub farm in the El-Kalubia governorate, northeast of Cairo, Egypt May 1, 2016. Picture taken May 1, 2016 (Reuters)
Egypt's office of the prosecutor-general has ordered the release on bail of a businessman charged in the high-profile wheat corruption case after he paid back a substantial amount of money he was accused of stealing.
Businessman Ibrahim Hatab, the second defendant in the case released on bail in two days, paid the government EGP 86.8 million ($9.7 million), which he has been accused of pilfering from funds slated for wheat subsidies, said a statement by the prosecutor-general's office.
Hatab's release order, on bail of EGP 500,000 ($5,600), comes one day after another defendant in the case, Refaat Nosseir, was ordered released after he paid back 77 million ($8.6 million) in stolen state funds.
The office of the prosecutor-general stated earlier this month that its investigation into alleged corruption in the wheat procurement sector revealed that some EGP 533 million ($60 million) have been stolen by officials within the agriculture ministry in collusion with silo owners.
It says that the officials took government funds allotted for the buying of 222,000 tonnes of wheat from local farmers, pocketing the cash while claiming that the purchase was made.
The prosecutor-general has issued a travel ban and frozen the assets of the defendants in the case.
A recent report by a fact-finding commission appointed by parliament has said that the supply ministry played a key role in "wasting public funds" in its costly wheat subsidy programme.
Supply minister Khaled Hanafi resigned earlier this week over the scandal.