Egyptian Minister Arrested After Being Told To Step Aside

Egypt's agriculture minister was arrested in Cairo on Monday after being told to step aside in connection with an investigation into corruption at his ministry, judicial and media sources said.

Salah Helal "resigned on the orders of the president", a statement from the prime minister's office said.

He was detained after a meeting in the premier's office, a judicial source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"He was arrested as part of an investigation into a major case of corruption in his ministry," the official MENA news agency reported.

Officials at the agriculture ministry are alleged to have taken bribes to help businessmen illegally acquire state land, a prosecution official and media reports said.

The prosecution service had last week banned media from publishing any information about the case.

Helal, 59, an agronomy graduate, rose through the ranks at the agriculture ministry to become minister in March.

Graft at many levels has blighted the Arab world's most populous country.

In July, a court sentenced a former prime minister of ousted president Hosni Mubarak to five years in prison for corruption and fined him millions of dollars.

Ahmed Nazif, whom Mubarak sidelined to appease protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his rule, was convicted in his retrial of having used his position to make a fortune of $8.2 m.

The court also fined him $6.8m.

Nazif had been accused of corrupt property deals and receiving illegal bonuses.
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