By Tamim Elyan
CAIRO: The Cairo Criminal Court on Tuesday handed down a 10-year prison sentence with labor to former finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali, in absentia, and five years with labor to ex-interior minister Habib El-Adly in the licenses plates case.
Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif was given a one-year suspended sentence and all three were fined LE 92 million plus the reimbursement of an equal sum of money which they are accused of profiteering.
Nazif, El-Adly and Ghali were accused of squandering LE 92 million in public funds by granting the license plates contract to German company Utsch through direct order at above market prices, in violation of the tenders and auctions law.
The ruling was issued after seven hours of defense hearings.
Defense lawyer Farid El-Deeb said that criminal intent was not proven in the case as per eyewitness testimonies.
He said Nazif was authorized by Article 8 of the tenders and auctions law to ink deals through direct contracts when necessary, and that the time needed for manufacturing the plates does not negate the necessity of the decision at the time it was taken.
“He made an effort and researched the issue himself and concluded that they need this contract; he might be wrong but there was no bad intention,” El-Deeb said.
El-Deeb said that El-Adly signed the decision based on security needs for new license plates for all cars in Egypt, and after knowing that the ministry will not have to carry the cost. He handed a memo written by El-Adly to judges.
Chancellor Hisham Magdy, representative of the public funds prosecution, presented to the court a report issued by the deputy head of the State Council in 2008 saying that the contract was illegal and violated Article 7 of the tenders and auctions law since it was not necessary to issue a direct contract.
He added that the contract was in administrative breach due to the absence of a trade representative in Egypt for the German company.
El-Deeb responded by saying he can get an opposing report that proves the contract was reviewed and approved by the State Council.
Article 7 of the law authorizes the prime minister to draw up a direct contract in cases of “extreme necessity” if it is worth over LE 300,000, while Article 8 authorizes the PM to do the same when necessary.
Magdy said the State Council’s report is considered a court ruling since it was issued by a judicial committee.
Mohamed Abdel Fattah, El-Adly’s lawyer, claimed that the conviction and trial procedures were invalid due to violations of the defense’s rights as well as the second article of the constitution since case files were not translated from English to Arabic.
He also denounced eyewitness testimonies as illegal, claiming they contradict what they had initially told the prosecution.
He said that Saeed Fathallah, who raised the lawsuit, had identified himself in the prosecution’s investigations as the owner of Paper House for trade proxies and then denied it in front of the court, saying that the company is owned by his son and so the basis of the case is false.
He also said eyewitnesses were not qualified to give testimony.
El-Deeb urged the court not to respond to public pressure in what he described as a “campaign to seek revenge from the defendants” and dubbed the prosecution’s investigations as inaccurate.