Supply minister resigns amid corruption allegations

Embroiled in controversy stemming from widespread subsidy fraud in Egypt’s domestic wheat supply chain and media reports of misappropriated public funds that were used to cover a two-year stay at a hotel suite, Supply Minister Khaled Hanafy held a press conference on Thursday to announce that he would step down from his government position.

In his resignation address, Hanafy stated that his time in office had taught him that ministerial service is no longer easy but has become a burden. While he did not directly address the reason for his decision, the former minister spoke of “personal matters” that had “proven to have been exaggerated,” while reaffirming that he would be “at the service of the nation” despite his exit from public office.

Questions about Hanafy’s use of public funds emerged on August 19, when TV host and Member of Parliament Mostafa Bakry took to his show on the privately owned Sada al-Balad channel to assert that the supply minister had been staying at a five-star hotel in downtown Cairo since February 2014. At a daily cost of LE10,000, Bakry estimated that the accommodations totaled over LE7 million, all of which he suspected the government of having paid.

Hanafy impugned the allegations in a statement on his Facebook page, writing that the government does not pay for expatriate ministers and that the accommodations had been paid for using his personal finances.

While the minister had faced mounting pressure to resign, Hanafy appeared defiant earlier this week, vowing to stay in office during a meeting of Parliament’s agriculture committee.

It remains unclear what prompted Hanafy’s resignation, but sources have told local media that he had been pressured by the government to resign in the aftermath of a widespread corruption crisis, whereby the government was unable to account for large quantities of wheat purchased from domestic suppliers, amid ballooning subsidy costs marred by reports that internationally sourced wheat had been mixed into local supplies and sold to the government to take advantage of attempts to stimulate domestic production. Earlier in August, Egypt’s general prosecutor estimated that traders had collected LE533 million for nonexistent wheat. The parliamentary fact-finding mission formed to examine the case has submitted a report to Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal that is expected to be presented to the legislative body before the close of the month.

Hanafy assumed his post as supply minister in February 2014 under the government of former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and former interim President Adly Mansour.

Former Agriculture Minister Salah Helal resigned in September 2015 after being arrested on corruption charges. In April, he was sentenced to ten years in prison.

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