A presidential decree issued on 12 March aims to provide those involved in the illegal seizure of public funds a method for reconciliation with the state. The decree was issued to amend three articles of the Criminal Code’s procedures.
Professor of Criminal Law at Cairo University Mahmoud Kobesh told Daily News Egypt Saturday that he believes the amendments form a means for the state to recover stolen money. This comes especially after the 25 January Revolution and the increasing number of accusations regarding embezzlement of public funds.
The new amendment states that a specialised committee assigned by the cabinet should be in charge of reconciliation procedures. The cabinet makes the final judgment regarding the matter before the decision comes to effect.
“It is expected that the committee is formed with officials from different state institutions, such as the Illicit Gains Authority, or the Prosecution Authority of Public Funds,” Kobesh explained. “If the reconciliation is approved, the lawsuit against the defendants is stopped at any given step,” he added.
This means that the reconciliation process can stop ongoing investigations, end a trial or cancel a court verdict. “If the defendant was sentenced in absentia, a delegated lawyer can demand a re-trial, after a settlement is reached with the cabinet’s committee,” Kobesh continued.
Article 18 of the Criminal Code initially allows reconciliation for the defendant in certain cases where offences and misdemeanours are punishable by a fine or a prison sentence not exceeding six months.
The law allows such a possibility before the case is referred to court. The step is initiated either by the prosecution investigating the case, or by the claimant. The defendant has to pay a fine that is equal to one third of the maximum fee he can obtain if charged.
The procedures are slightly different if the case goes to court or if the defendant started fulfilling a sentence but reconciliation is still possible, in a manner that also ensures rights to the plaintiff.
As for the cabinet’s new authority, Kobesh does not think it interferes with the independence of the judicial process.
Another amendment to the same law added the crimes of bribes and taking advantage of one’s position for personal gains committed by an employee of the public sector, to the criminal charges that cannot be dismissed before a specific period organised by law.
The law set 10 years from the date of the crime, after which the charge is dropped. In the case of public officials, the counting starts only after the employee is not in his position anymore if investigations have not been completed.