Ex-agriculture minister questioned on carcinogenic pesticides

Justice Ministry officials on Tuesday questioned Youssef Wali, a former Egyptian agriculture minister, on suspicions that he squandered public funds and allowed carcinogenic pesticides into the country, judicial sources said.

Authorities arrested Wali, security sources said, though his lawyer said Wali turned himself in at the Justice Ministry on Tuesday.

Ahmed Edriss, a justice official charged with investigating Agriculture Ministry corruption cases, ordered Wali's arrest late on Sunday.

Egyptian authorities accuse Wali, who served as minister from 1982 to 2004, of "bringing 37 brands of pesticides that were proven to cause cancer," the state news agency MENA said on Sunday.

It said that in 1996, the chemicals had been banned from entering the country, but they were allowed entry in 1998 until 2004, under Wali.

Officials also suspect that Wali squandered LE200 million (US$33.6 million) in state funds by selling land to businessman Hussein Salem for less than the market price.

Wali has denied the charges.

Prosecutors have been investigating business transactions of officials under Mubarak since mass protests forced him to resign on 11 February.

A prosecutor froze Wali's assets in April in connection with the sale of 100,000 feddans (420 million square meters) of land to Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal in a deal which Egyptian authorities suspected had violated the law.Translated from the Arabic Edition

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