January 22, 2018 / 4:46 PM / 4 months ago

Egypt's former supply minister cleared in wheat buying scandal

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s public prosecutor has closed a case against former supply minister Khaled Hanafi for corruption in wheat buying, judicial sources said, clearing him of charges related to a high profile scandal that rocked the world’s biggest grain buyer.

FILE PHOTO: Egypt's Minister of Supply Khaled Hanafi attends the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) in Sharm el-Sheikh, in the South Sinai governorate, south of Cairo, Egypt March 14, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

A memo from the prosecutor’s office said the case raised against Hanafi had been closed as of Dec. 12, 2017, and that criminal accusations relating to misuse of public funds had been dropped.

Hanafi was in charge of the country’s state grain buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), when a parliamentary investigation in 2016 suggested that millions of dollars intended to subsidize farmers were used to purchase wheat that did not exist.

He resigned in August 2016 amid a separate controversy over whether he was using state funds to pay for posh hotel stays, which he denied.

Hanafi was never directly charged with complicity in the procurement scandal, but parliamentarians who opened a wide-reaching probe into the fraud and industry officials pinned much of the blame on his administration. He has denied any wrongdoing.

A Reuters special report that preceded the parliamentary probe detailed how the government’s wheat supply chain had been riddled with corruption that was costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Lawmakers who formed a fact-finding commission to investigate the scandal said upwards of 2 million tonnes, or 40 percent of the locally procured crop in 2016 may have been missing.

Egypt procured about 3.4 million tonnes of wheat in last year’s harvest, the first after new measures were implemented to prevent the previous year’s fraud.

Reporting by Haitham Ahmed; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Catherine Evans

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