Tags: Egypt

Egyptian Whistleblower Gets 5-year Jail Sentence in Absentia

Monday, 09 December 2019 02:37 PM

CAIRO (AP) — A self-exiled Egyptian businessman whose allegations of corruption against the country's ruling military sparked rare protests has been sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for tax evasion.

Mohamed Ali had released a series of viral videos from Spain earlier this year, pitching himself as a former government insider who witnessed high-level corruption and large-scale misuse of funds as a construction contractor for the military. Ali did not provide evidence to support his claims.

He also called for the downfall of Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a former military officer, who dismissed the corruption accusations “sheer lies and defamation.”

Ali's videos led to scattered street protests against the president in several Egyptian cities in September. Public protest has been almost completely silenced the past years by draconian measures imposed under el-Sissi.

After swiftly stamped out the demonstrations, security forces escalated a long-running crackdown on suspected dissidents, jailing thousands in the weeks that followed. Hundreds of them have since been released.

According Monday's online version of the Al-Akhbar daily, a Cairo criminal court sentenced Ali over the weekend to pay around 42 million Egyptian pounds ($2,600,000), after his firm, Amlak, failed to settle a dispute with the government over taxes owed between October 2012 and September 2016. He was also fined 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,100). Al-Akhbar did not specify the day of the sentencing.

The verdict can be appealed.

Ali had claimed he left Egypt while the military owes him 220 million Egyptian pounds, or $13 million, for services he provided. He also did not provide evidence to support his claims.

Over 15 years of work with the military, Ali said his company routinely paid bribes to the military’s business arm, the so-called Engineering Authority, to secure countless contracts for lucrative projects, such as the building of presidential palaces and luxury hotels.

While dismissing the corruption allegations, el-Sissi has said he would continue building new presidential residences for the good of Egypt. “I am building a new country,” he said.

Over the years, critics have questioned the expanding role of the military in the business world and its economic interests, as well as its seemingly unfair competition with the country’s private sector. They say the military enjoys advantages because it’s exempted from taxation and proper auditing.

In recent remarks, military spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said army has carried out 2,300 projects employing 5 million Egyptians.

El-Sissi said the military has overseen road projects costing 175 billion Egyptian pounds ($1 billion), and that his government has carried out projects worth more than $245 billion. He said he would inaugurate 14 new cities next year.

He had said the projects, ranging from new roads and housing complexes to an $8.5 billion military-led expansion of the Suez Canal, attract investors and create jobs.

As defense minister, el-Sissi led the military's 2013 ouster of an Islamist president, whose one-year rule proved divisive and sparked nationwide protests.

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A self-exiled Egyptian businessman whose allegations of corruption against the country's ruling military sparked rare protests has been sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for tax evasion.Mohamed Ali had released a series of viral videos from Spain earlier this...
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2019-37-09
Monday, 09 December 2019 02:37 PM
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