hisham geneina: the losing fight against corruption

All updates for this post are at the end of the post.

The Chairman of the Central Auditing Authority, Judge Hisham Geneina, was, according to the media, interrogated by State Security in the afternoon of March 28, regarding his announcement to the media that the level of corruption in Egypt exceeded LE600 billion, and an additional charge of misappropriation of funds. Following his interrogation, State Security prosecution released an official statement saying that the comments the top auditor made in 2015 on state corruption were “inaccurate.” Later that same day, government newspaper Al Ahram announced that Geneina was dismissed by presidential decree. He was also immediately replaced by State Security man Judge Hisham Badawi who had been involved in interrogating several high profile cases before. Geneina was also banned from travel and placed under house arrest  [see also WSJ][Update April1: his lawyer says he is not officially under house arrest but rather there are policemen outside his home acting like hooligans and preventing anyone from visiting him].

In addition, he is now being investigated for ‘misappropriation of public funds’ based on reports some citizens filed against him [this charge was dropped on March 31 by a Cairo court]. Charges leveled against him also included keeping copies of documents from the Central Authority in his own possession – obviously as proof and evidence to protect himself, since he clearly expected repercussions against him. His lawyer, however, said that he did not know about the charges. Surprisingly, the dismissal came 5 months before his tenure was up.

When Geneina was called in for interrogation today, March 28th, TV host and state security man Ahmed Mousa said that Geneina was “inside the trap now” and that he will be dismissed from his post before the sun rises. After his dismissal, he went on television to gloat saying that he  ‘Salutes Sisi, the hero.’

However it seems that the presidential decree was not really a decree but rather a statement sent to the media which said that the president issued a presidential decree dismissing Geneina.

خبر صحفى أصدر السيد الرئيس عبد الفتاح السيسى قرارًا جمهوريًا بإعفاء السيد المستشار هشام أحمد فؤاد جنينة، رئيس الجهاز المركزى للمحاسبات، من منصبه اعتبارًا من اليوم 28 مارس 2016″

A presidential decree usually has a number and date and is published in the official newspaper. None of this happened and the decree has no number or date. Additionally, in an investigative report, Al Tahrir Newspaper stated that contrary to what the media said, Geneina was never called in for interrogation regarding his allegations.

Background: 

Geneina is the Chairman of the Central Auditing Agency and was appointed by deposed president Mohammed Morsi. He issued a report that spoke of government corruption, claiming that the state squandered 600 billion pounds between 2012-2015 although the media alleged that he said it was only in 2015. Prior to that, Geneina  in a video dated Feb 2014, he stated in a press conference that the president’s salary which is LE44k is legal but additional amounts he takes are not legal. He also stated that in the judiciary there is mismanagement of money to the tune of 2.5 billion pounds, and that State Security gets 2 billion pounds annually without any oversight.

President Sisi had passed a decree on July 9th giving himself the right to remove the heads of independent auditing bodies if they pose a threat to national security, even though according to the existing law, the auditor’s position is not one from which he could be removed. Egypt’s chief auditor Hisham Geneina claimed the decree was orchestrated by newly appointed Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend after a corruption case filed by Geneina implicated the minister. [for more on the topic click link].

Sisi immediately appointed a committee to investigate Geneina’s claims. The committee was from the government body which itself is implicated Geneina’s report. Within a mere couple of days, the committee returned its verdict in a report stating that Geneina’s report had “no basis in reality”. Their report also claimed that Geneina was deceiving the public and lacked credibility. The committee’s report was given to the press which deemed it conclusive even though it did not respond to any of Geneina’s points. It should be mentioned that Geneina had stated before that he had sent several reports before this one and had received no response on any of them.

In addition to the formation of the committee, newspapers with their pro-government writers began a vindictive campaign against Geneina. Some claimed he was just part of the Brotherhood, others that he was corrupt himself. Some ‘wondered’ how he would issue such a report with such serious accusations without verficiation [even though they had never read the report themselves]. Geneina was also accused of being corrupt himself and of owning land that he should not have owned, to which he responded that if someone finds that land, he will donate it to charity. Journalist Mostafa Bakri stated that Geneina was a Brotherhood member, a liar and is a man who threatens national security.’

Some were trying to urge him to resign but he refused and insisted that he would respond to any criticism of his report. Sisi then referred the committee’s report and the entire matter to parliament whose members vowed to bring Geneina in for a deposition. When the report was given to parliament for ‘discussion’ t in January, a Parliamentarian said the house speaker ignored them and did not give them Geneina’s report even though they requested it. No one, therefore, except an elite few, have seen the report.

The campaign against Geneina continued. A hashtag on Twitter and Facebook said ‘put Hisham Geneina on Trial’  حاكموا هشام جنينة  immediately after he made his statement. It was clearly sponsored by the government’s ‘cyber army’. An article called ‘The Report’ was declined by Al Ahram state-sponsored newspaper – although it spoke of a Lebanese satirical movie with the same title. This entire campaign came amidst reports that the State had been withdrawing overdraft money with the knowledge of the Central Bank, to cover its deficit.

It should be noted also that a former auditor has claimed recently that some generals are so corrupt that their wealth has increased into the 50 million pounds and above.

On Jan 20th, the public prosecutor announced a ban on publication of any news re the report of the corruption case. The ban stayed in effect until March 28 and his dismissal.

Note: The background section of this post was published in a previous blog post on this blog and I republished it here for a more complete reading.

Update March 31:

  • Al Masryoon newspaper uncovered an older article from 2015 in Al Watan newspaper that shows that the Administrative Control Agency had confirmed Geneina’s report which he had submitted to the President and to the Ministerial Council. The report has never been published, but the ACA confirmed that the amount of corruption and illegal land acquisition was beyond 440 billion pounds.
  • According to sources within the Auditing Agency, Judge Badawi, who was appointed to replace Judge Geneina, confiscated files about many higher level agencies in the State which Geneina was planning to uncover to the media in the coming weeks. It was announced in the media that Badawi ‘uncovered’ that he had files on many people – implying that it was a crime, when in fact, it shows precisely why Geneina was removed. Badawi also allegedly turned off electricity in the building to stop “document-shredding.” Others from within the Agency say that it was not about shredding but about not giving access to Geneina’s aides at all who were also not allowed inside their offices for two days in a row and no one was allowed to touch a single paper.
  • The Center for Social and Economic Rights filed a lawsuit to annul Sisi’s decree as unconstitutional.
  • Constitution and law professor Nour Farahat said that anyone who cheered the dismissal of Geneina should never again speak of the law nor the constitution, nor on fighting corruption.
لمن صفق لقرار عزل جنينة أو حتى صمت عنه
ليس من المشروع له أخلاقيا أن يتحدث مستقبلا لا عن احترام الدستور ولا عن محاربة الفساد
كل من صمت أو أيد سيحمله التاريخ مسئولية لن يتحرر منها ضميره أبدا هذا كان هناك ضمير
الصامت عن الحق ليس فقط شيطان أخرس بل قبل ذلك شيطان مدلٰس
Arabic Text of Indictment of Geneina:

ارتكب جريمة ترويج شائعات وبيانات ومعلومات كاذبة، وبث دعاية مغرضة حول تكلفة الفساد فى مصر، من شأنها تكدير الأمن العام، وإلقاء الرعب فى نفوس المواطنين، وإلحاق الضرر بالمصلحة العامة للدولة، وهى جرائم تصل عقوبتها للحبس. كما كشفت التحقيقات، أن «جنينة» استغل منصبه باعتباره على رأس الجهاز المركزى للمحاسبات، وقام باختلاس أوراق ومستندات تقارير رقابية سرية جدا، مستغلا وظيفته، واحتفظ بها لشخص فى إحدى الجهات، وهى جريمة كبرى تصل عقوبتها للسجن المؤبد

Previous statement made by Geneina:

  • Morsi appointed tailors and plumbers as experts and advisors.
  • Geneina reveals Morsi’s and other men in powers’ corruption
  • Auditing Authority: we discovered corruption in Morsi’s catering and trips accounts.
  • In January 2016, Geneina said he submitted 440 complaints of corruption to the administrative prosecution, 428 to the public prosecutor and 65 to the Illegal Earnings entity, but besides a very small number, none of those was investigated.
    كما اكد جنينة علي أن اللجنة قد قدمت تقرير يفيد اهدار ما يقرب من 70 مليا جنية من المال العام وتشمل رئاسة الجمهورية وقطاع النقل البحري وقطاع البترول وغيرها من القطاعات الحيوية، وقد أوضح أن رئاسة الجمهورية خلال فترة محمد مرسي قد زادت الموازنة خلال هذه الفترة بمقدار 44 مليون حيث بت تجاوزات عن القانون بمبلغ 793 ألف و 652 جنيها مصروفات خلال هذه الفترة.

Updates:

Update April 1:
  • Infamous lawyer Samir Sabri says ‘Geneina’s wife is a Hamas member’ to which Geneina’s lawyer responded: ‘Sisi has made peace with Hamas.’
  • In his first talk to a newspaper, Geneina stated that he was not under house arrest and that he had never been interrogated by state security as the media had stated. He also said he never filed a lawsuit against ‘those who dismissed’ him and that he believes he did his job honestly and with good conscience. He also stated that he would not be giving any newspaper interviews or statements after this one.
 Update April 3rd:
  •  A new case has been filed against Geneina for speeches he gave in 2013.
  • Parliamentarian Sadat asked officially asked in parliament why they have not been given the Geneina reports including ones from previous years, which basically contradicts article 217 of the constitution which stipulates all Auditing reports have to be accessible to parliamentarians. He also asked for the government budget for 2014-2015 which has not been given to Parliament. Similarly parliamentarian Haytham Al Hariri asked for those reports as well and asked that parliament see those reports and that they also be accessible to the public.
  • The official newspaper finally published a number and date for Sisi’s decision to dismiss Geneina: it is number 132/2016 and said it was starting March 28th, 2016. There had been talk that not publishing a decree and not giving it a number and date is unconstitutional and that it could annul the decision.
  • Dismissed judge Al Zend and TV host Ahmed Moussa as well as a few others have both been referred to criminal court in the case that Geneina’s lawyer filed against them for defaming him and calling him names in public.
  • Journalist Hamdi Qandeel said he does not understand how Judge Hisham Badawi was appointed to replace Judge Geneina, even though he is implicated in some of Geneina’s reports?
  • The campaign to defame Geneina continues. TV host Mohamed Al Gheiti said on his TV program that Geneina’s house is surrounded by police because he has documents that he might send to Qatar. He also stated that Geneina’s daughters have a weapons storage in Salheya.
 Update April 4th:
  • After saying that he will not file a lawsuit against his dismissal, Geneina said he has prepared a lawsuit to protect the honor of his position.

Update April 6:

  • ‘Sources’ allegedly claim that Geneina is now being accused of giving important documents to Qatar which harm national security. This was allegedly done by him sending important accountants who supervised ministry of interior, defense, military production, petroleum and some newspapers to work by contract in Qatar. This was published in Al Youm Al Sabea newspaper which is the state’s mouthpiece.
  • It should be noted that in January 2015, Geneina told Al Masry Al Youm newspaper that he has information that a case is being prepared against him, framing him for spying for Qatar. Incidentally, he was also accused of ‘owning Grad missiles’!!
  • Geneina was ordered by the court to pay a fine of 20 thousand pounds for ‘cursing’ former Minister of Justice Al Zend.

Update May 17:

Update May 24:

  • Geneina was summoned before a state security interrogator. He asked for his lawyer to be there but the prosecutor refused which prompted Geneina to refuse to speak unless his lawyers were present. This prompted the prosecutor to postpone the interrogation till Sunday May 29th.

Update May 29:

  • Judge Geneina was called in again for interrogation by state security. He is accused of ‘spreading false rumors about the extent of corruption’ and disturbing public peace. This time he was accompanied by 10 lawyers, two of whom were permitted to attend the interrogation with him.

Update June 2:

  • Geneina was asked to pay bail before being released after interrogation. He refused. He stated that accepting to pay bail is an acknowledgement that I did something wrong and I know I did not. He is to appear in court on June 7th. His lawyers said they will not appeal his arrest for refusing to pay bail and will be happy to let him arrive in court in a police truck [to shame the government].
  • Geneina released a statement also to that effect:
    “أنا على يقين من أنني أؤدي واجبي إرضاء لله وللوطن والأمانة التي اؤتمنت عليها، مثلت أمام القضاء الذي شرفت بالعمل فيه قبل تبوئي رئاسة الجهاز المركزي للمحاسبات وتمكينا من الوصول إلى العدالة التي ينشدها أي مواطن أمام قضاء عادل مستقل لا يقطع سيف المعز وذهبه، ولكني فوجئت بتحريات ملفقة تم بناء اتهامات كيدية على أساسها وانتهى الأمر إلى إلزامي بدفع كفالة، وعليه بات دفع الكفالة تسليما مني بصحة هذه الاتهامات”.

Update June 3:

  • State security issued the following statement regarding the arrest of Judge Geneina. There is a gag order still on the case because the case allegedly constitutes a threat to national security.

Geneina_neyabetAmn

Update June 4th:

  • Geneina’s family paid bail to allow him to see his daughter who had been hospitalized since his arrest.

Update June 5th:

  • Geneina’s lawyer says that once he was taken to prison, security personnel were removed from his family’s residence and they heard shots outside the villa at night which terrified them. It is a deliberate attempt by the regime to frighten them and Geneina into submission.

Update June 8th:

  • Geneina said that at the police station, he was forced to sleep on the ground in order to break him. He said that to reporters on his way out of court yesterday, Tuesday June 7th, where he was summoned after his interrogation. He said at the station he was told to enter an empty room and sleep there alone and when he tried reasoning with the officer, the officer refused to listen. His lawyer said that Geneina entered into severe depression and refused to come out of the room the next day except when he heard that his daughter was hospitalized after hearing her father had been arrested. The man who posted bail is his brother.
  • New York Times article on Geneina: Graft Fighter in Egypt Finds Himself a Defendant in Court.

    “In an interview, Mr. Geneina declined to discuss the details of the report, saying he had been told not to discuss the case. But he said he believed that he was being pursued because he had angered powerful interests — officials who became wealthy under former President Hosni Mubarak, and parts of the state security services under Mr. Sisi.

    “In every position I have held, I underwent security checks,” he said. “If I was so dangerous why didn’t they come after me 40 years ago?”

    Since then, Mr. Geneina and his family have been subject to a campaign of defamation on pro-state television channels in an effort to discredit him, ranging from accusations that he belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood to suggestions that his wife supported the militant group Hamas because she is of Palestinian origin.

    “I have lost faith in a lot of things,” Mr. Geneina said. His wife, sitting beside him, spoke of her shock of him being hustled into a van and hauled off to jail.”

Update June 10, 2016:

  • coverage of Geneina in media in spite of gag order

    coverage of Geneina in media in spite of gag order

    Although there is a media gag against Geneina’s case, Al Akhbar newspaper published the alleged prosecution report claiming that Geneina “did not deny exaggerating the amount of corruption money.” During his interrogation the prosecutor also did not find that ‘waste of public money’ fell under the corruption category.

Presidential decision

Presidential decision

  • Meanwhile, Shorouk, Geneina’s daughter has been removed from her position as administrative prosecutor for posting ‘political material’ on her facebook page. She had posted a caricature criticizing/making fun of the former minister of justice Al Zend who had a ‘conflict’ with her father and therefore this could be considered defamation. Shrouk said on facebook that she was surprised at the decision and asked why.

Update June 14:

Update June 15:

  • Mada Misr newspaper was able to access Geneina’s original report and published it. Here it is in pdf – in Arabic. Up until today, the report had not been released except to a limited parliamentary committee that decided the report was all lies.

Update June 30:

  • Geneina was in court several times over the past five months and his case has been postponed for the end of July. In an interview with Reuters he said: ““When political parties are absent, NGOs are absent, local media is being crushed, international media too… is that a sign of a healthy environment in which a country can flourish?”

Update July 28:

Update August 17th:

Update December 20th, 2016:

  • Court of Appeals sentences Justice Geneina to 3 years suspended sentence and 20 thousand pounds fine. According to one of his lawyers, the suspended sentence means that during those 3 years if he is accused of ‘threatening public peace and security’ he will be imprisoned. The lawyers will take the case to the Court of Cassation.
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