CAIRO: Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud extended for 15 days the detention of Ashraf El-Attal, chairman of Egyptian Traders Co., pending investigation of a Russian wheat shipment that was rejected by Egypt.
El-Attal faces several charges including violating contracts for importing wheat for the Trade Ministry, seizing public money and forging official documents.
Egypt suspended grain contracts with Egyptian Traders Co. on June 7 after the prosecutor ordered the return of the 52,500-ton Russian wheat cargo and told Egyptian Traders to repay $9.6 million to Egypt’s main state grains buyer General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC).
SGS, a leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, said in June that a falsified SGS quality certificate had been used on a Russian wheat shipment imported by Egyptian Traders.
Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, has been in a dispute with Egyptian Traders since mid-May over the quality of wheat cargoes brought into the country and the authenticity of an import document that the firm has claimed was valid.
The Prosecutor General had ordered the seizure of all wheat imported from Russia last May because it may not be fit for human consumption.
He had formed a committee of professors from the faculty of agriculture who had examined samples of Russian wheat to determine its validity and whether it complied with standards agreed upon by Egypt’s GASC and Egyptian Traders, which imported the wheat.
At the time, the head of the Russian Grain Union, Arkady Zlochevsky, accused Egypt of having the “sole objective to force us to sell at lower prices, according to Reuters.
“All grains we ship to Egypt fully correspond to conditions, including grade and quality, specified in export contracts, Zlochevsky said. “The problem is not the quality, but an attempt to play with prices.
The issue was triggered when opposition MP Mostafa Bakry requested an urgent investigation at the People’s Assembly into a shipment of Russian wheat that entered Egypt despite the objection of the agriculture committee at the port, which said that the shipment failed to meet health requirements.
Independent and opposition MPs hailed the state prosecution efforts in exposing and putting an end to importing this type of wheat.
“For quite sometime there have been numerous investigation requests filed at the PA regarding the wheat imported from Russia and the Ukraine as it has been scientifically proven that it is cancerous and not fit for human consumption to which the government hadn’t responded. Finally action has been taken to ensure the quality of what the people are eating, said MP Gamal Zahran, the official spokesperson of the independent bloc at the PA.