Egypt`s ex-premier charged with corruption

Egypt`s protesters have been pushing for "cleansing" of state institutions.

Cairo: Egypt`s ex-prime minister and two other former Cabinet members were charged with corruption on Sunday in the latest step in a campaign to bring officials of Hosni Mubarak`s toppled regime to justice for years of corruption, rights abuses and other crimes.

Egypt`s attorney-general for public funds charged former prime minister Ahmed Nazif, ex-finance minister Yousef Boutros Ghali and former interior minister Habib el-Adly with wasting more than USD 15 million in public money and profiteering, the official news agency reported.

Mubarak was forced to step down on February 11 after massive protests against his three decades in power. One of the protesters` chief complaints was the corruption that pervades the government, its bureaucracy and virtually all levels of society. Also driving the campaign to bring the former president and those connected to him to trial are concerns that remnants of the regime could maintain some influence.

Mubarak and his sons were placed in custody on Wednesday for 15 days while they are investigated on corruption allegations and over the deaths of hundreds of protesters in the 18-day uprising.

The case involving his prime minister and the two other ex-Cabinet ministers centres on a deal with a German businessman. They are accused of granting him a contract to sell license plates in Egypt without opening up the deal to competitive bidding. The German businessman is also charged with corruption in the case.

A trial date has not been set.

El-Adly, the ex-interior minister, is already facing trial on other corruption charges. Egypt`s protest movement also wants to see him prosecuted for rights abuses carried out by the internal security forces that were under his control.

Boutros Ghali, who is outside the country, is a nephew of former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Nazif served as prime minister since 2004.

Mubarak has remained in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh until he can be transferred to a military hospital. He was hospitalised with unspecified heart problems on Tuesday, the same day his questioning began.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the delay is primarily related to ensuring his security.

The director of the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh, Mohamed Fadlallah, said Mubarak was in good condition.

A witness who visited the hospital said Mubarak had asked to change the sealed windows in his hospital suite for ones that open to allow in fresh air.

His two sons, businessman Alaa and banker-turned-politician Gamal, are also in detention. On Sunday, prosecutors interrogated them at Cairo`s Tora prison. It had been widely believed that Mubarak was grooming Gamal to succeed him.

The two sons were questioned about accusations they owned firms, including one in Cyprus, that manage investment funds. They were also asked about their role in privatising Egypt`s state-run companies.

Egypt`s protest movement has been pushing for the prosecution and "cleansing" of state institutions from officials linked to Mubarak`s regime. The military leaders who took control of the country from Mubarak and pledge to return the nation to civilian rule have been criticised as moving too slowly. In response, they say civilian trials would guarantee justice and due process better than quicker military trials.

In a case that does not appear linked to the campaign targeting former regime officials, Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass was convicted on Sunday of failing to implement a court order in a dispute with a businessman over the use of space in a museum gift shop.

He was sentenced to a year in prison but is appealing the verdict.

Hawass denied any wrongdoing.

Bureau Report

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