31 January 2016

Egypt Court Postpones Top Auditor's Investigation for Third Time

Cairo — A Cairo court postponed the investigation into Egypt's top auditor Hisham Geneina's case in which he is accused of insulting the judiciary.

The accusation was leveled against Geneina by Justice Minister Ahmed el-Zend, who said Geneina insulted him in a television interview in November 2014.

The court did not set a date for the next session, said the investigation will resume once the court assess the legal arguments made by Geneina's defense lawyer.

Geneina's lawyer said the top auditor cannot be held accountable without a law that regulates trying ministers, stating that Geneina holds the status of a minister.

Geneina is the head of Central Auditing Organisation (CAO), which is an independent legal entity that monitors financial institutions and government bodies and falls directly under the jurisdiction of the presidency.

He was absent from Sunday's investigation session, for the third time, justifying his absence in a letter he sent to the judge presiding over the investigation in which he said that his trial proceedings are "illegal".

The judge summoned Geneina twice before, once on Jan. 18 and another time on Jan. 26. Geneina didn't attend either sessions.

In December, Geneina told Egyptian media services that the size of governmental corruption during the period between 2012 and 2015 was EGP 600 billion (around $75 billion). He based his statements on findings of a detailed study conducted by the CAO.

Until last year the head of CAO and other entities with the same legal status and immunity could not be dismissed, according to the Egyptian constitution.

But in July 2015, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a law allowing the president of Egypt to depose the heads of the state's regulatory and auditing agencies including CAO and the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE).

Following Geneina's corruption allegations, Sisi ordered a fact-finding committee to probe the statements he made.

On Jan. 12, the investigative committee released a report challenging Geneina's claims, saying his statements and the CAO's study are "inaccurate", "exaggerated" and "lack credibility".

The fact-finding committee is led by the head of the cabinet-affiliated Administrative Control Authority and includes representatives from various ministries.

Earlier this month, Egypt's top prosecutor ordered a media gag on the investigation into the corruption allegations made by Geneina. A lawyer and founder of an advocacy group to defend Geneina filed a lawsuit before the administrative court on Saturday calling for the media gag to be lifted.


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