Egypt detains former PM Obeid for illegal land deal

Egyptian authorities detained former prime minister Atef Obeid for 15 days to investigate allegations he illegally sold land well below market value, judicial sources said on Thursday.

Since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February, Egyptian prosecutors have been investigating corruption allegations made against former officials and businessmen connected with his 30 years in power.

Judge Ahmed Edrees, commissioned by the Justice Ministry to investigate corruption in the agriculture ministry, accused Obeid and Youssef Wali, former deputy prime minister, of illegally selling land in Luxor in the south of Egypt.

The pair are charged with selling the plot to businessman Hussein Salem, a close confidant to Mubarak, for 8 million Egyptian pounds (US$1.3 million) when the value of the land was 208 million pounds.

The land was also sold illegally because it is a protected nature reserve, Edrees said.

Obeid denied in a five hour investigation on Thursday responsibility for the deal, blaming it on Wali, sources said.

The former prime minister, who was banned from travel out of Egypt on 23 February for other charges, was in office between 1999-2004. He resigned under increasing pressure from business leaders demanding faster privatization.

The public prosecutor in April sequestered funds belonging to Obeid as part of a probe into alleged squandering of public funds relating to the sale of Assiut Cement, now a local affiliate of Mexican company Cemex (CX.N). [ID:nLDE7352BB]

Wali is facing other charges as well. He was the agriculture minister from 1982 to 2004 and is charged with approving the importation of cancer-causing pesticides.

Salem, a former intelligence chief who was arrested in Spain last month on an international warrant, is accused of wasting funds by selling gas to Israel below market prices.

Related Articles

Back to top button