Egypt says official suspected of corrupt rice deals, not wheat

by Reuters
Sunday, 23 February 2014 08:34 GMT

This May 28, 2008 file photo shows labourers transplanting rice seedlings in a paddy field in the Nile Delta town of Kafr Al-Sheikh, north of Cairo. REUTERS/Nasser Nuri

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CAIRO, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Egypt referred an import official from the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) to administrative prosecutors on suspicion of corruption over local rice deals, not wheat, the Supplies Ministry said on Sunday.

Egypt is the world's biggest wheat importer, normally purchasing around 10 million tonnes a year, and any loss of confidence in that trade could have significant consequences for the market.

On Saturday, Supplies Minister Mohamed Abu Shadi had referred the head of the central import administration at GASC to administrative prosecutors for suspected corrupt dealings with traders.

"The case has no relation at all with wheat, it is about dealings to purchase local rice from local traders in which the official had extended traders' deadlines to 10 days instead of a week," ministry spokesman Mahmoud Diab told Reuters but declined to name the man.

GASC was not immediately available for comment.

Abu Shadi also sacked the head of the silos and storage holding company for failing to reach targets set for 2012/13.

Saturday's move came just days after two other senior GASC officials were removed, and marked another flashpoint after deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi spent his year in power dramatically reducing wheat imports in a failed attempt at self-sufficiency.

Abu Shadi has said self-sufficiency needs swift action towards increasing Egypt's wheat storage capacity from 1.5 million tonnes to 6 million tonnes. (Reporting by Shadia Nasralla and Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Michael Georgy and Alison Williams)

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