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Government and Security Sector Accountability

Israeli Gas Deal Case

Court / Presiding Judge

First Review: Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Basheer Ahmed Abdel 'Al
Second Review: Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Muhammad Khalaf Allah
Second Review (for Hussein Salem): Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Abdel Tawab Ibrahim

Procedural History

The court issued a guilty sentence to defendants on June 27, 2012. A verdict upon second review was issued on February 21, 2015. A verdict upon second review for Hussein Salem (who had not been included in the February 2015 verdict) was issued on May 18, 2017.

Verdict

Upon first review, all of the defendants were sentenced to prison terms lasting between three and 15 years. Upon second review, the court acquitted former Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy and five other former Ministry of Petroleum officials. Although business tycoon Hussein Salem was tried in the first review of this case, his sentence was not reviewed in the case of second review because it had been issued in absentia and he was not present to contest the verdict. When Salem was ultimately retried, he was acquitted of all charges.

Summary of Reasoning

Defendants were initially found guilty of harming the country’s interests by signing a deal to sell gas to Israel for $1.5 per million British thermal units (reportedly almost nine times lower than the market price); the retrial fully acquitted them of such charges.

Anecdotal Notes

The export of Egypt’s gas to Israel has historically been a contentious issue. Former president Hosni Mubarak was exculpated of similar charges in November 2014. While Hussein Salem relinquished funds in a reconciliation deal with the Egyptian government that was finalized in August 2016 and in which he reportedly paid LE5.8 billion in order to avoid prosecution, it has been suggested that the total value of his assets far exceeds the amount he reported during the reconciliation process.

Legal & Judicial Implications

Recent investigations and reports have suggested that the deal with Israel cost Egypt over $714 million in lost revenue. The fact that no party has been held accountable for such a loss raises questions on the judiciary’s ability to guarantee the financial integrity of government officials and to combat issues of government corruption. There are also additional concerns that reconciliation deals like the one reached for Hussein Salem in this case allow individuals implicated in government corruption to opt to give up a portion of stolen money in exchange for no jail time, raising questions on the inequity that such a precedent sets forth for those without access to the same financial resources, as well as questions on whether such deals sufficiently dole out justice for wrongs committed.