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Monday, 8 August 2016

First arrest warrants over wheat scandal issued as House moves to question key cabinet figures

Prosecutor General issues first arrest warrants in the “wheat fraud” scandal: The Prosecutor General’s Office issued arrest warrants, travel bans, and an order to freeze the assets of an unspecified number of agriculture ministry officials and shouna owners and operators for their alleged involvement in the scandal surrounding this year’s wheat harvest. The prosecutor’s office alleges shouna owners defrauded and operators the government of EGP 533 mn by submitting forged receipts worth EGP 621 mn for 222K tonnes of wheat that were never collected, according to the statement from the Prosecutor General.

The Supply Ministry, which has its collective head on the chopping block in the case, was quick to issue a statement praising the prosecutor’s move. A Supply Ministry spokesperson made sure to note that it was the ministry that initially began investigating the fraud during harvest season. Continuing the PR offensive, the ministry apparently ran a report by CAPMAS defending its handling of the bread point system (the primary beneficiary of wheat grown in Egypt), stating that the system had increases access of rural families to subsidized bread, Al Borsa reports.

House committee welcomes the charges: The investigation was praised by MP Magdy Malak, head of the House committee investigating the wheat case, who made the talk show rounds on Sunday. Malak pointed that the prosecution’s investigation was separate from his own, which he says has so far tallied around EGP 500 mn in ‘missing’ wheat. He confirmed that the committee will complete its report this week, but shied from specifying a day, in a call-in to Al Sada Al Mohtaramon on OnTV (runtime: 8:59). He stated that Supply Minister Khaled Hanafy is ultimately responsible for the flap and alleged that some of Hanafy’s underlings were criminally culpable.

House to question cabinet figures over wheat fraud and ergot: Meanwhile, the House approved a motion that Minister of Supply Khaled Hanafy be questioned by the House amid allegations he “mismanaged” and “squandered” public funds in regard to both the wheat harvest and the bread subsidy system. Parliament also wants to question Prime Minister Sherif Ismail as well as the ministers of health and agriculture on why they moved to accept wheat shipments with up to 0.05% ergot contamination. MP Nadia Henry believes the move violates the law and “puts the health of Egyptians at risk” despite the limit falling within UN FAO norms.

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