Criminal court upholds decision to charge ex-ministers, officials with corruption

Ahram Online, Friday 11 Feb 2011

Cairo's Criminal Court upheld on Thursday a decision by prosecutor-general Abdel-Megid Mahmoud to freeze the bank accounts of former ministers and senior officials

The court's decision included former ministers Zoheir Garana of tourism, Ahmed el-Maghrabi of housing and Rachid Mohammed Rachid of trade and industry, according to Egypt's state information service website. Furthermore, the assets of former NDP Secretary of Organization Ahmed Ezz and other five officials were also frozen.

The decision came as the prosecuter's office's public funds department reviews complaints against the officials who are charged with profiteering and wasting public money.

On Thursday state television announced the charges faced by the NDP and ex-ministers, which included ‘abusing their position to enrich themselves and stealing public money’.

State television added Garana was accused of giving state land to a well-known tourist company as an incentive for it investing in his own firm, Garana Tourism, which was facing financial difficulties.

Ezz was accused of illegally taking control of state-owned al-Dekheila Steel, which then supplied his Ezz Steel firm with steel at reduced prices, costing al-Dekheila heavy losses.

The former housing minister Ahmed El-Maghrabi appeared before prosecutors on Monday to face charges of squandering public money and seizing state land, state news agency MENA said.

By the end of last week, Egypt’s public prosecutor issued a travel ban on former interior minister Habib El-Adly, former housing minister Ahmad El-Maghrabi and the former minister for tourism, Zuhair Garana. Former National Democratic Party member and steel magnate Ahmed Ezz has also been banned from leaving the country. All those under investigation have had their bank accounts frozen.

Two weeks ago, Egyptian President Mubarak dismissed his cabinet following massive protests demanding the ouster of Mubarak and the entire ruling regime. Mubarak also appointed a new government led by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt’s former aviation minister.

Former Egyptian minister of trade and industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid denied Tuesday claims that his wealth exceeds $12 bn.

"These are plain lies," Rachid said in an interview with al-Arabiya. "I struggled with my staff to fight the corruption against prominent characters and we could have done much more."

Ezz Steel also said in a statement this week that Ezz strongly denied the accusations levelled at him and the investigation was a personal matter that would not affect the operations of the company.

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