A Cairo criminal court sentenced former head of Egypt’s Central Auditing Authority (CAA) Hesham Geneina one to year in prison and a fine of LE20,000 for disseminating false news that was harmful to state institutions and threatened public peace.
The court also released Geneina on LE10,000 bail. The charges stem from an interview Geneina gave to the privately owned Youm7 last December, while he was still the head of the CAA, in which he stated that previous reports by CAA members indicated that “corruption in 2015 exceeded LE600 billion.”
Geneina based this figure on a report titled, “Analysis of the cost of corruption in some sectors in Egypt.” The report was made available by Mada Masr in June and subsequent analysis has shown that the figure disclosed by Geneina is a “very conservative estimate,” despite widespread accusations of exaggeration.
In March, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi dismissed Geneina from his position as CAA head in what was widely speculated to be a response to Geneina making public statements about corruption within state institutions.
Sisi passed a decree in 2015 giving him the power to remove the heads of independent oversight bodies from their positions if they proved to be a threat to national security or failed to carry out their duties properly. Geneina told Mada Masr in a previous interview that he believed the move was political.
Previously, members of oversight bodies were immune to dismissal, and the bylaws of the CAA stipulate that its head cannot be removed, in order to protect the institution from outside interference. The head of the organization is meant to hold the position for four years, which can be renewed for a second term.
Geneina’s removal from office and his subsequent trial have been criticized as an attack on the independence of the CAA.