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Egyptian PM storms out of conference over corruption question

Mahlab was the head the company implicated of receiving millions to "service" Mubarak’s properties [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 September, 2015

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Egyptian Prime Minister angrily walked out of a press conference he was attending in Tunisia after a journalist asked if the visiting politician was himself corrupt.
Egypt’s prime minister walked out of a press conference in Tunisia on Tuesday after a local journalist probed him on his alleged links to a corruption case in Egypt.

Ibrahim Mahlab made a sudden departure after holding talks with his Tunisian counterpart Habib Essid, when Muqtad al-Hijri asked him about his connections corruption case involving the renovation of presidential palaces during the rule of former president Hosni Mubarak.

     Why have you arrested the minister of agriculture on charges of corruption, when you yourself are implicated in the biggest corruption case in the country
- Muqtad al-Hijri
On Monday, Egypt’s agriculture minister Salah Helal was arrested on allegations of corruption minutes after he resigned on the instruction of President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi.

“Why have you arrested the minister of agriculture on charges of corruption, when you yourself are implicated in the biggest corruption case in the country; the presidential palaces case,” said local Tunisian reporter.

Mahlab later responded to the accusations that he stormed out of the press conference, saying, “I didn’t walk out, Egypt is great and us Egyptians can defend our principles. We were expecting this,” he told Egyptian journalists accompanying him on his two-day official visit.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam al-Qawish phoned into a popular talk show on Tuesday night to clarify what had happened exactly.

Qawish said: “We had agreed that Mahlab would only answer two questions, he left because the second question was related to an internal matter and came from a channel linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

In 2013, Mubarak and his two sons were cleared of charges of using state funds to finance their presidential palaces, rather than public projects.

During the Mubarak era, Mahlab was the head of Arab Contractors – the company implicated in the “presidential palaces case” of receiving millions of Egyptian pounds of public money to “service” Mubarak’s properties.

Crackdown on corruption

The Egyptian government has begun an apparent anti-corruption campaign with arrests of several high-profile figures including, the agriculture minister for allegedly accepting improper gifts from a businessman in return for 2,500 acres of state-owned land.

The head of the Egyptian National Anti-Corruption Organisation was arrested on Sunday in Cairo over alleged charges of bribery.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed’s Arabic service reported that the Minister of Religious Endowments, Mohamed Mukhtar Gomaa, has been barred from travelling to Saudi Arabia to head Egypt’s official Hajj delegation and was summoned for questioning on his possible involvement in the Helal corruption case.

Also on Tuesday, a Cairo court upheld a decision to disqualify steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz from running in upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held in October and November this year.

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