(Recasts with arrest, adds comments from a source close to the
By Ahmed Mohammed Hassan
CAIRO, Sept 7 Egyptian authorities on Monday
arrested the country's agriculture minister over corruption
allegations, security sources said, just after his resignation
The prime minister's office released a statement earlier in
the day saying Salah El Din Mahmoud Helal's resignation had been
accepted on the instruction of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
"He was arrested in connection with a corruption case
involving illegal land licenses," a security official said. "He
is under investigation."
Helal could not immediately be reached for comment.
Egypt, the world's largest importer of wheat, has embarked
on a series of reforms designed to strengthen an economy
battered by political turmoil since an uprising toppled
president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The arrest comes weeks before a long-delayed parliamentary
election is due to be held in the most populous Arab state after
security forces launched a crackdown on the government's
Islamist opponents in an effort to create stability and
encourage foreign investment.
In July, the agriculture ministry banned cotton imports in
order, it said, to boost local production. Egypt grows a
high-quality and extra-long staple cotton, once known as "white
gold", but output has been shrinking for years.
Eight days later, the cabinet reversed the decision, giving
no reason beyond saying this was in the context of
"developing cotton farming and supporting its farmers", in what
was seen as a U-turn that raised questions about the
government's management of the economy.
An Egyptian official suggested the minister was sacked
because of mismanagement.
"There was a host of factors leading up to this decision as
he wasn't taking full charge of his ministry and decisions
coming out of it were often at odds with other ministries like
the trade and industry ministry," the official said.
"There was obvious confusion to decisions on rice and
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Writing by Michael
Georgy; Editing by Dale Hudson)