Five ways Egypt's corrupt police profit from their jobs
Abdel Samee was one of 73 other defendants in a police corruption case. Charges against them were dropped in exchange for the return of a total of 182 million EGP ($20 million) of illicit gains.
Police officer and security expert Mahmoud Qatari described the case as "legalised corruption".
"This is evident in the massive income disparity among police officers and leading ranks," he told The New Arab.
"Corruption began to spread in the interior ministry during the era of late President Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat [1970-1981]," he explained.
"With the decline of income for state employees as opposed to business owners, rich and poor classes emerged within the interior ministry."
Qatari, who has previously led three initiatives to reform the security sector in Egypt, added that police officers were tempted to accept bribes from arms and drug dealers as they see their superiors' wealth expanding.
"One police officer asked for 2,000 metres of tiles for the floors in his house [without paying], and when the storeowner refused, his son was arrested for [false] possession of 20 kilograms of marijuana," he said.
The interior ministry does not provide any statistics or official reports about financial corruption among its staff, who are not allowed to speak to the media or make any statements without the approval of its media office.
However, based on the archives of several leading Egyptian newspapers, this investigation has documented the imprisonment of 19 low-rank officers and 25 others with various ranks on charges of profiteering, abuse of power, fraud, bribery, embezzlement, car smuggling and drug possession during 2014 and 2015.
|Bribery is one of the main forms of corruption within Egypt's interior ministry.|
Below are five ways Egyptian police officers of various ranks use their power and positions for profit.
Bribery is one of the main forms of corruption within Egypt's interior ministry. This was shown in the case of the al-Doksh gang.
This case only surfaced by coincidence after officer Mostafa Lotfy was killed in an undercover mission aiming to arrest fugitive Mohamed Hafez, known in his circles as al-Doksh.
When al-Doksh and his father were arrested in a police raid after Lotfy was killed, they confessed to recruiting a number of police officers, with monthly salaries of up to 60,000 EGP ($6,760).
According to media reports, six senior police officers were subjected to disciplinary measures after being proven to provide the gang with information about police raids in exchange for bribes and drugs.
This case was not the first, but it was the largest in terms of the number of officers involved (27 according to media reports).
In 2014, three low-rank officers were arrested for smuggling a detainee in exchange for a bribe, while three others were referred to trial for accepting 600 Emirati Dirhams ($163) from an Emirati woman accused of drug possession in Cairo in exchange for manipulating evidence.
Extortion of prisoners
Mohamed Saad Sariya, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Mansoura, who was arrested over affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, could not get his medication in prison until he bribed police officers, even though Egypt's prison laws guarantee the inmates' right to receive medical treatment.
Sariya is one of 337 inmates who have been denied access to medication since 30 June 2013, according to estimates by the UK-based Arab Organisation for Human Rights.
Halim Hanish, lawyer at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, said regular prisoners' rights such as access to food or medication can only be obtained by paying low-rank police officers and recruits.
The payment ranges between 50 EGP ($5.6) to 200 EGP ($22.5), depending on the case.
In addition, a source said, guards receive money in the form of cigarettes (money is prohibited in prison), which are used as currency inside prison, while outside, they are sold to merchants for less than their official price.
|A police colonel was accused of abusing his power to find out his Dutch wife's credit card pin code and using it to steal 25,000 Euros ($28,400) from her.|
Wealthy prisoners pay a monthly salary to the guards in the form of cigarettes in exchange for better living conditions and demands.
Abuse of Power
The interior ministry has received nearly 500 police reports on how low-rank officers benefited from state subsidies for vehicles of people with special needs.
The officers made deals with a number of people with special needs to buy the vehicles and sell them back to the officers with a 5000 EGP ($563) profit in exchange for power of attorney to allow them to drive the cars.
In another case reported in 2014, a police colonel was accused of abusing his power to find out his Dutch wife's credit card pin code and using it to steal 25,000 Euros ($28,400) from her.
In January 2015, two police officers were detained for falsifying certifications for unlicensed cars, while two other officers were sentenced to 18 months in prison for using a tow truck to steal cars from a Cairo suburb.
Despite the lack of official reports on the involvement of police officers in drug dealing, security expert and MP Mahmoud Mohie Eddine has confirmed that nearly 4,000 police officers and recruits are currently in prison for being involved with various gangs, including those who deal drugs.
"Just like any other sector in the state, the interior ministry has corrupt officials," he told The New Arab, explaining that dealing with the world of crime has had its negative influence on vulnerable officers.
"Instead of depending only on police reports, it is necessary to develop police performance and expand supervision and control," he added.
|Officers who are not corrupt will at least cover up for low-rank officers, and will thus become corrupt over time.
- Police colonel Mohamed Abdel Rahman
Checkpoints and fines
Police officers use security checkpoints and fines for illicit gains.
In May 2014, two police officers were arrested on charges of seizing 185 cartons of smuggled cigarettes. In another incident, a young man had to pay the officer 100 EGP ($11) to avoid a false charge of drug possession after being detained for hours at a checkpoint.
According to stories circulated among police officers, certain sectors of the ministry are similar to "working in the Gulf", in reference to high income, mostly from illicit sources such as fines.
Retired police colonel Mohamed Abdel Rahman says that corruption in the interior ministry needs "extensive cleansing", especially among low-rank officers, which he described as the "corruption wing" of the ministry.
"Officers who are not corrupt will at least cover up for low-rank officers, and will thus become corrupt over time," he said.
On the other hand, security expert General Farouk al-Maqrahi said that discussing police corruption "only benefits criminals and terrorists", adding that Egypt's police are currently in a "war against terror" and thus should not be subject to such accusations.
He also accused the media of trying to tarnish the image of the police due to the current crisis between journalists and the interior ministry.
"All professions have good and bad people," he said, "and the police sector cleanses itself from corrupt employees."
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.