Egypt sends more ex-ministers to court

A file photo of former Secretary General of Egypt's National Democratic Party Gamal Mubarak and Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi. According to media reports, authorities have arrested al-Fiqi as well as the head of state television and radio on charges of corruption

Egypt's public prosecutor referred two former ministers and several prominent businessmen to a criminal court on Thursday on accusations of profiteering and squandering public funds, a court source said.

The cases are among a number brought by prosecutors who have been investigating corruption charges made after an uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak erupted on Jan. 25.

The public prosecutor ordered that cash, real estate and other assets belonging to the defendants be blocked, but not the money of the companies they owned shares in so as not to affect their operations, the official MENA news agency said, without citing its source.

In one case, it accused former Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid and the head of the Industrial Development Authority Amr Assal of improperly giving production licences to steel magnate Ahmed Ezz, chairman of Ezz Steel.

The two officials were accused of giving Ezz, free of charge and outside of the required public auction, a licence to produce iron sponge and pallet, MENA said.

Ezz Steel is the country's biggest steel maker, and Ahmed Ezz had also been a senior official in the ruling National Democratic Party during Mubarak's rule. Ezz and Rachid have denied wrongdoing.

In a second case, the prosecutor accused former Housing Minister Ahmed el-Maghrabi of illegally concluding a sale contract for a plot of state land before the buyer had fully paid for it.

The prosecutor accused Maghrabi of having improperly arranged the sale of the land in Sixth of October near Cairo and its later transfer to real estate firm Palm Hills Development via a foreign company specially set up to conclude the deal.

The transaction cost the state more than 272 million Egyptian pounds ($46.2 million) in lost revenue, the court source said.

Among others accused in the case were Palm Hills Chairman and Chief Executive Yasseen Mansour and UAE national Wahid Youssef.

Egypt's second-largest real estate firm, Palm Hills was founded by The Maghraby Investment and Development Company, a joint venture between the Maghrabi and Mansour family businesses.

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