Cairo, AP—Egypt’s agriculture minister was detained on Monday shortly after resigning from his post amid a corruption investigation involving him and others allegedly receiving bribes worth over 1 million US dollars, the country’s acting prosecutor general said.
The detention of Agriculture Minister Salah El-Din Helal and his aides comes after Egyptian prosecutors issued a gag order last week over the investigation.
A statement by Ali Omran said that Helal and three other ministry officials were also detained pending an investigation. The statement alleged that the four officials accepted gifts in exchange for the reallocation of a parcel of state land, including a sports club membership, high-end clothing, mobile phones, expensive meals, payment for 16 people to go on a religious pilgrimage, and a luxury housing unit.
Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency said Helal resigned on orders from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
In an interview Sunday with the private CBC television network, Helal said, “There are no corruption cover-ups in the Ministry of Agriculture,” without elaborating on the case. Helal could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday and it wasn’t clear if he had a lawyer.
The Egyptian government has long been plagued by corruption allegations, particularly regarding land deals. Sisi routinely emphasizes that he is fighting corruption.
Many officials from the era of ousted former president Hosni Mubarak have won a series of acquittals in recent months in corruption-related cases. Sisi has pledged to go after corrupt officials and Helal’s detention marks the biggest case yet to be brought forward by his administration.