Former agriculture minister Salah Helal will be facing his first trial session on 12 December, along with three other officials, on charges of receiving bribes, according to state-run news agency MENA.
The other suspects in the case are Helal’s assistant Mohy El-Din Mohamed, Chairman of Cairo 3A food and beverages company Ayman Gamil, and Mohamed Fouda, who had claimed he was a journalist until the Press Syndicate refuted that he was a member in an official complaint filed to the Prosecutor General on 5 September.
On 25 October, the four were referred to the criminal court as prosecution investigations upheld that Helal took advantage of his position as a public official to request bribes in return for legalising 2,500 acres of land for businessman Ayman Gamil, amid ongoing corruption at the ministry from April to September 2015, according to MENA.
The “gifts” received are believed to have amounted to nearly EGP 20m, including a house worth EGP 8.25m in the luxurious Palm Hills residential compound, memberships at the upscale Al-Ahly sporting club, travel expenses at over EGP 11m for family members of the suspects to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, dinner ceremonies, and even clothes and shoes.
While Fouda was a mediator in the deals, Helal’s deputy was caught red-handed receiving a bribe, which later led to the arrest of Helal and his dismissal from the cabinet. The former minister confidently denied being involved following his assistant’s arrest.
Even though cabinet ministers’ had rejected media reports that suggested other ministerial officials were involved in the case, the refutations do not rule out the prospects of widespread corruption in the government sector.
NGO Partners For Transparency (PFORT), which observes corruption cases in ministries and other governmental institutions, reported 85 cases in September. The top four ministries concerned are the supply ministry with 18 cases, the local development ministry with 12 cases, the finance ministry with nine cases, and the health ministry with seven cases.
Moreover, the Administrative Prosecution has been relatively active in investigating cases reported in the media, namely in the health sector where medical negligence has become a regular occurrence.
In another example last October, the Administrative Prosecution referred 10 employees and officials of the education administration of 6th of October City to investigations, on charges of embezzlement of public funds at over EGP 147m.
According to PFORT, legislations remain insufficient to combat corruption in Egypt.