By Sameh Fahmy
CAIRO: Egypt’s public prosecutor charged the former tourism minister with corruption and barred the ex oil minister from traveling abroad pending an investigation into financial violations, state media said on Sunday.
Prosecutors have been investigating graft allegations made against former officials and businessmen after a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak last month.
The prosecutor referred former Tourism Minister Zoheir Garrana and two businessmen to a criminal court on charges of appropriating state funds, the official MENA news agency said.
The three men were charged with “profiteering, appropriating state funds and facilitating the appropriation of state funds.”
The public prosecutor said Garrana had sold large tracts of land in Gemsa on the Red Sea coast to the businessmen without following the required legal procedures, for far less than the value of similar land, MENA reported, citing investigations by the prosecutor.
This allowed one of the businessmen to improperly gain $10 million and the other to gain $41 million, it added, saying the two businessmen have been out of Egypt since December.
The prosecutor also banned former oil minister Sameh Fahmy from foreign travel pending investigations of financial violations, the cabinet’s Facebook page said.
Al-Ahram newspaper said Fahmy was being investigated on charges of wasting public money in gas export deals to Israel, saying the minister was suspected of exporting gas to Israel at rates lower than international prices.
Israel gets 40 percent of its natural gas from Egypt under an arrangement put in place after their landmark 1979 peace accord.
The company that supplies Egyptian gas to Israel is East Mediterranean Gas (EMG), and one of the major shareholders in the company is Mubarak associate and former Egyptian intelligence chief Hussein Salem.
Opposition groups have long complained Egyptian gas was being sold to Israel at preferential prices and that the contract with EMG violated bureaucratic regulations. The government insists the deals were done on commercial terms.
Egypt is a modest gas exporter, using pipelines to export to Israel, Jordan and other regional states. It also exports via liquefied natural gas facilities on its north coast, but those are not in the Sinai region.