Hesham Abdul Basset, Menufia ex-governor. Image Credit: File

Cairo: The  trial of a former governor of an Egyptian province started on Saturday near Cairo on charges of bribery in one of the biggest corruption cases uncovered in the country in recent months.

In January, the then-governor of Menufia in Egypt’s Delta, Hesham Abdul Basset, was arrested allegedly for taking bribes of around 27 million Egyptian pounds (Dh5.5 million) from a businessman in return for unlawfully selecting his company to carry out state-funded projects in the province.

The businessman and a mediator in the bribe were arrested too.

The three were brought Saturday to the Giza Criminal Court from prison and placed inside an iron cage as the chief judge Belal Mohammad read out the bill of charges.

Abdul Basset pleaded innocent, legal sources said.

However, the co-defendants — the businessman and the mediator — told the court that the ex-governor had requested and received bribes, the sources added.

The bribes included classy cars and apartments.

Following a procedural session, the chief judge said that the hearings will be postponed until July 7 to allow time for defence lawyers and summon witnesses. 

Abdul Basset was appointed Menufia governor in February 2015.

After he and the two co-defendants were arrested, Egypt’s chief prosecutor ordered their assets be seized.

Fight against corruption

President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi has vowed relentless fight against corruption since he took office in 2014.

Several state officials have since been arrested on corruption charges in separate cases.

Last month, the Administrative Oversight Authority, a powerful anti-graft state agency, arrested four senior officials in the Supply Ministry, which is responsible in Egypt for making food items available at the local market for reasonable prices.

The four are accused of taking 2 million Egyptian pounds in bribes from food suppliers in order to unlawfully pick them for business.

In April last year, Egypt’s top appeals court upheld a 10-year jail ruling against ex-agriculture minister, Salah Helal, who was convicted of taking bribes when he was in office.