Egyptian minister arrested over graft probe

Salah el-Din Helal was arrested after being told to resign in connection with an investigation into corruption.

Egypt agricultural minister
Salah el-Din Helal, 59, rose through the ranks at the agriculture ministry to become minister in March [Al Jazeera/Daily News Egypt]

Egyptian authorities have arrested the country’s agriculture minister over corruption allegations, security sources said, just after his resignation was announced.

The prime minister’s office released a statement earlier on Monday saying Salah el-Din Mahmoud Helal’s resignation had been accepted on the instruction of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Helal “resigned on the orders of the president,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

He was detained on leaving the premier’s office, a judicial source told AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He was arrested as part of an investigation into a major case of corruption in his ministry,” the official MENA news agency reported.

Officials at the ministry are alleged to have taken bribes to help businessmen illegally acquire state land, a prosecution official and media reports said.

The prosecution service had last week banned media from publishing any information about the case.

‘Receiving bribes’

Helal, 59, an agronomy graduate, rose through the ranks at the agriculture ministry to become minister in March.

Helal and his chief of staff were believed to have “requested and received” bribes from businessman Ayman al-Gamil – through an intermediary – to legalise the purchase of a property bought from the state, the statement said.

They were questioned and remanded in custody. Corruption at many levels has blighted the Arab world’s most populous country.

In July, a court sentenced a former prime minister of ousted President Hosni Mubarak to five years in prison for corruption and fined him millions of dollars.

Ahmed Nazif, whom Mubarak sidelined to appease protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his rule, was convicted at his retrial of having used his position to make a fortune of $8.2m. The court also fined him $6.8m.

Nazif had been accused of corrupt property deals and receiving illegal bonuses.

Source: News Agencies