Egypt ministers face corruption charges

Public prosecutor targets country's former premier and former finance and interior ministers.

    Nazif, seen as fronting free-market reforms in Egypt, now faces corruption charges [Reuters]

    Egypt's former prime minister and his finance minister are to face trial on charges of corruption and squandering public money, according to the country's public prosecutor.

    The prosecutor's office made the announcement on Sunday, but no date has yet been set for the trial.

    Ahmed Nazif, the former premier, is currently in prison, while Youssef Boutrous Ghali, the former finance minister, is abroad.

    Habib el-Adli, the former interior minister, who is already facing trial on charges of killing protesters and graft, will be tried on the same charges.

    The three, along with a German businessman, are accused of illegal profiteering from a deal to import new vehicle number plates.

    They allegedly bought the number plates directly without calling for a public tender as laid down by law, and also allegedly paid more for the number plates than the market price.

    The deal is thought to have cost the state more than $16m in lost revenue.

    Widening investigation

    Many investors regard Nazif and Boutros-Ghali the driving forces behind free-market reforms in Egypt that helped boost economic growth to around an annual seven per cent in the three years before the 2008 global economic crisis.

    But for many Egyptians, the two were part of Egypt's corrupt ruling elite and the military - which has governed Egypt since February when pro-democracy protests ousted Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president - are keen to show they are committed to holding members of the previous government to account.

    The protests, which saw violent clashes between protesters and Mubarak's loyalists and security forces, left an estimated 800 people dead and more than 6,000 injured.

    Mubarak is in hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he fled with his family during the protests that brought the end of his presidency.

    Although hospitalised last week following a heart attack, he has been remanded in custody in connection with the shooting of protesters.

    His two sons, Alaa and Gamal, are in the Tora prison complex in the capital, and face similar accusations.

    Former finance minister Boutros-Ghali is the nephew of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former UN chief, and held a senior post in the International Monetary Fund.

    'Normal succession'

    In another development on Sunday, Sherif Cararah, the head of Egyptian bank EFG-Hermes, resigned his position.

    The bank said that Carah's resignation had been long planned, calling it a "normal succession", but the move still dented the stock price.

    Widening investigations into charges of corruption by businessmen and government officials under have made many of Egypt's business elite jittery.

    EFG has come under the spotlight for its association with Gamal Mubarak, who owns 18 per cent of the investment bank's subsidiary EFG-Hermes Private Equity.

    The subsidiary generates no more than seven per cent of EFG Hermes Holding's total revenue, EFG has said.

    The chairman of another Egyptian financial company, private equity firm Citadel Capital, was banned on Thursday from travel pending investigations into corruption allegations.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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