|Military rulers hope to calm public outrage over rampant corruption. [Getty Images]
An Egyptian prosecutor on Thursday ordered the detention of three ex-ministers and a prominent businessman pending
trial on suspicion of wasting public funds.
The prosecutor dealing with financial crimes said former Interior Minister Habib el-Adli, former Tourism Minister Zuhair Garana, former Housing Minister Ahmed el-Maghrabi and steel magnate Ahmed Ezz must be held for 15 days.
All four have denied any wrongdoing.
Suspicions of official graft helped fuel popular anger that led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last week. The charges are seen as a move by the army-led interim government to quell the unrest.
The move will "certainly be seen as a very positive step by the people of Egypt," said Al Jazeera's correspondent in Cairo, Ayman Mohyeldin, who added: "There's no doubt that more dirty laundry of the former regime will be aired, particularly if this case goes to court over the next few weeks."
Prosecutors filed formal charges against Maghrabi, Garana and former trade and industry minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid as anti-government protests raged last Thursday, a day before Mubarak stepped down. Rachid has also denied misconduct.
In a statement last week, steel magnate Ezz said that he strongly denied the accusations levelled against him and the investigation was a personal matter that would not affect the company's operations.
Widely considered to be a mentor of Gamal Mubarak, son of former president who was groomed to replace his father. He was also a senior member of the powerful Policy Committee of the National Democratic Party.
The public prosecutor also froze the accounts of Adli and his family members on accusations that over 4 million Egyptian pounds ($680,000) were transferred to his personal account by a head of a contractor company, state TV said on Saturday.
It said the general prosecutor also called on the foreign minister to contact European countries to freeze the accounts of Adli, Garana, Rachid, Maghrabi and Ezz.
Meanwhile, the United States announced on Thursday that it was giving Egypt $150 million in crucial economic assistance to help the key US ally transition towards democracy following the overthrow of long time president Mubarak.
"I am pleased to announce today that we will be reprogramming $150 million for Egypt to put ourselves in a position to support the transition there and assist with their economic recovery," secretary of state Hillary Clinton said.
The chief US diplomat added that William Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, and David Lipton, a senior White House adviser on international economics, would travel to Egypt next week.
The pair will "consult with Egyptian counterparts on how we can most effectively deploy our assistance in line with their priorities," Clinton told reporters after a closed-door briefing with senators about Middle East unrest.
"We also discussed the lessons of the recent events in Egypt and the broader Middle East," she said."These events demonstrate why the United States must remain fully engaged around the world,"