Egypt sentences former health minister's ex-husband to 10 years in prison over corruption

Mohamed El Ashhab, a former high-ranking official at Misr Insurance, and three others were tried in the much-publicised 'Health Ministry Bribery' case

epa08283824 Egyptian Minster of Health Hala Zayed (R) speaks during a press conference to give updates about the coronavirus cases in Luxor and Aswan, in Cairo, Egypt, 10 March 2020. Coronavirus cases in Egypt have now jumped over 50 according to latest reports.  EPA/MOHAMED HOSSAM
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An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced the ex-husband of Egypt’s former health minister Hala Zayed to 10 years in prison and fined him EGP 500,000 ($26,430) for corruption.

Mohamed Al Ashhab, a high-ranking official in Egypt’s largest state-owned life insurance company and three others were arrested in December for accepting an EGP 5 million bribe from the owners of an unlicensed private hospital who wanted a licence issued despite the establishment not meeting the necessary standards.

An accomplice of Al Ashhab's, Mohamed Beheiry — a former Egyptian Health Ministry official in the licensing department — was sentenced to one year in prison, according to court officials at the trial on Wednesday.

The other two accomplices, middle men who enabled communication between Al Ashhab, who worked for Misr Insurance, and the owners of the private hospital, were acquitted.

They are Attia El Fayoumy, a physician and owner of the El Fayoumy Hospital, and Hossam El Din Foda, a retired military officer.

All four were arrested in December, although they were not named in the prosecution statement at the time.

Prosecutors said at the time that through the testimony of 13 witnesses, including the owners of the unlicensed hospital who confessed when they were approached by security officials, they were able to uncover details of the corruption.

The defendants phones were also analysed and prosecutors found a number of correspondences between them confirming the corruption, the prosecution’s statement said.

The hospital owners were reportedly asked to co-operate with the police to deceive Al Ashhab so that he could be brought to justice.

Al Ashhab’s lawyer this week told local news outlets that hospital owners had obtained their licence through co-operation with security officials.

Former minister Ms Zayed resigned from her position last October in a move that surprised many commentators on social media, who were surprised that she was leaving after her much-lauded management through the Covid-19 pandemic.

There was no official comment at the time regarding her resignation.

After Wednesday’s ruling, users on Egyptian social media channels pondered what the verdict will mean for Ms Zayed, whose replacement has not yet been announced — Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar has been the country’s acting health minister since October.

Some cited reports published in The New Arab, a newspaper often highly critical of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi's regime, claiming that Ms Zayed was herself entrenched in the corruption scandal and that larger sums of money than the EGP 5 million promised to her ex-husband were at play in the case.

Updated: July 27, 2022, 2:42 PM