x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Court clears former Egyptian ministers in corruption cases

First ruling to exonerate former ministers since Egypt's popular uprising, though of three found innocent yesterday, one faces a further trial on other charges, and two have already been found guilty in different cases.

CAIRO // An Egyptian court yesterday cleared three ministers from former president Hosni Mubarak's administration of corruption, the first ruling to exonerate former ministers since Egypt's popular uprising.

Some of the defendants looked surprised when the verdicts were read out in the court room, which was filled mainly with their relatives and friends, and cheers of "long live justice" erupted.

The protests that unseated Mr Mubarak were driven by widespread anger at high-level corruption, and the trials of his former associates are being seen as a credibility test for the military council that took power after his downfall.

The former information minister, Anas El Fekky, and the former finance minister, Youssef Boutros-Ghali, were found innocent of charges of corruption, specifically squandering public funds. Boutros-Ghali, who has fled the country, was tried in absentia.

In a separate ruling by the same court, the former housing minister Ahmed el Maghrabi and the chairman of Palm Hills Development, Yasseen Mansour, were also acquitted of corruption.

Mr Fekky, who was close to Mr Mubarak. still faces further charges, and Boutros-Ghali and Maghrabi have been sentenced to terms in prison for other crimes.

The prosecutor indicted Mr Fekky and Boutros-Ghali in March on charges of profiteering and wasting public funds after investigations showed Mr Fekky apparently received 36 million Egyptian pounds (Dh22.2m) from the Egyptian finance ministry for parliamentary election media campaigns and to promote the ousted ruling party.

Fekky still faces charges that he deliberately misused funds from the state-run Radio and Television Union.

Boutros-Ghali, widely viewed in Egypt as a public face of a government that enriched the wealthy at the expense of the poor, quit his post in late January then fled abroad only days after the eruption of the uprising that ousted Mr Mubarak.

He was convicted last month and sentenced to 30 years in prison for profiteering and abuse of state and private assets.

In a third ruling, the former trade minister, Rachid Mohammed Rachid, was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for squandering public funds.

Rachid had already been convicted in June to five years in prison for profiteering and squandering public funds.

Rachid and two business executives had been charged with squandering public wealth in connection with the Industrial Modernisation Centre, a state-run body to support industry.

Prosecutors said Rachid, who fled Egypt after the uprising and has already been convicted in another case, had wasted 12.8 million pounds of state funds.