Egyptian trial exposes web of graft




By Mark Huband in Cairo

Financial Times, 26 June 2000

Egypt’s biggest corruption scandal in two decades ended yesterday when three members of parliament from the ruling National Democratic party (NDP) were jailed for 10 years.

After a 37-month trial, 28 other accused were sent to prison for periods ranging from five to 15 years, several with hard labour. The judge at Egypt’s state security court also called for legal changes that would allow heavy fines to be imposed in such cases, which involved the embezzlement of E£1.6bn (£306m) from four banks during the early 1990s.

The case involved the theft of funds from the United Bank of Egypt, formerly Dakahleya Bank, Banque du Canal de Suez, Banque du Nil, Al-Mohandes Bank and Faisal Islamic Bank. None of the money has been returned, nor is it expected to be. The five-year investigation into the case exposed a web of corruption tainting a broad section of the business community, ranging from import-export companies to real estate companies and bank officials.

The theft was exposed in early 1995 when Issa al-Ayouti, the president of Banque du Nil, accused his daughter Aleya of misappropriating funds. Miss al-Ayouti was given court permission to travel to France for two weeks for medical treatment in 1999 and has been there ever since. Egypt has requested her extradition and she was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail.

The verdicts come only four months before legislative elections in which President Hosni Mubarak’s NDP is expected to face a more formidable challenge from the opposition than in previous years.

© Financial Times