Cairo: An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced former agriculture minister Salah Hilal 10 years in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of one million Egyptian pounds (about Dh409,000) in a graft case, the biggest of its kind uncovered in the country under President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, judicial sources said.
The Cairo Criminal Court handed down the same jail term to Mohi Al Deen Qaddah, Hilal’s top aide, and fined him 500,000 Egyptian pounds the sources added.
Two businessmen, identified as Ayman Al Jamil and Mohammad Fouda, were exonerated in the same case because they confessed, the official said.
The rulings can be appealed.
The case pertains to the soliciting and offering of bribes to acquire state-owned land at a value lower than its market value.
Hilal had been detained in September after being told to step aside during a corruption scandal that prompted the entire government to resign a few days later.
Hilal, 59, an agronomy graduate, rose through the ranks at the agriculture ministry to become minister in March 2015.
Hilal and Qaddah had been charged with having “requested and received” bribes from businessman Ayman Al Jamil – via an intermediary – to legalise the purchase of a property bought from the state.
The scandal prompted the resignation of prime minister Ebrahim Mahlab’s government, with Esmail Sharif replacing him.
Anti-graft watchdog Transparency International ranked Egypt 94th out of 175 nations on its corruption index in 2014. The group says that it has been challenging to assess whether the level of graft has increased or declined because of the rapidly changing context since Egypt’s 2011 revolution.
Last July, a court sentenced a former premier under ousted president Hosni Mubarak to five years in jail for corruption and fined him millions of dollars.
Ahmad Nazif, whom Mubarak sidelined to appease protesters during the revolution that ended his rule, was convicted in a retrial of having used his position to make a fortune of $8.2 million (Dh30.11 million).
The court also fined him $6.8 million.
Nazif had been accused of corrupt property deals and receiving illegal payments.
Since taking office in 2014, Al Sissi has vowed a crackdown on corruption as part of his efforts to regain public trust in state institutions and revitalise an economy battered by years of unrest.
— With inputs from agencies