Parliament pressured to halt investigation into wheat embezzlement: sources

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal has rejected a request to extend the time set for a fact-finding committee's investigations into claims of wheat harvest embezzlement, on the basis of objections to the committee's style of enquiry. 

Egypt, the world's largest wheat importer, announced the government-led inspection of wheat silos after an unusually high procurement figure prompted allegations of possible fraud from top industry officials, traders and members of parliament. The committee was formed after allegations in June that officials in several governorates were manipulating the figures of wheat in government silos and taking large quantities for personal profit.

Parliamentary sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told al-Masry al-Youm that Aal turned down the committee's request for more time to complete their enquiries as a result of  “governmental and parliamentary pressure” on Aal since the committee started its work.

According to the sources, Supply Minister Khalid Hanafy and number of MPs from the Support Egypt coalition party (the party with the most seats, eyed as the pro-government bloc in the parliament) increased the pressure on Aal upon learning that the committee had submitted an application to extend its work.

The sources claimed that Hanafy and some officials from his Ministry met with a number of MPs to raise objections to the committee's alleged "overbearing" approach to investigations, suggesting that members of the committee were guilty of trying to enforce the law and discipline people when they were commissioned only to gather information. Objections were raised to committee members' behavior during inspections of barns and silos, saying they acted as "police inspectors" or "judges". 

Since the start of its work, the committee has announced evidence of several acts of embezzlement, with officials registering amounts of harvested wheat that did not tally with real figures.

The head of the committee, MP Magdy Malak, told al-Masry al-Youm that he met Aal and asked for an extension of two weeks, but Aal has refused saying, “There is no need for extension. The House of Representatives will discuss your final report in one of the sessions convening on August 7, 8, or 9.”

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm 

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