Ahad, 17 April 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

The Star Online: World Updates

Egypt refers former PM, finance minister to court

Posted: 17 Apr 2011 06:42 AM PDT

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will put on trial the former prime minister and his finance minister on charges of profiteering and squandering public funds, the public prosecutor's office said on Sunday.

No date has yet been set for the trial. But the military generals ruling Egypt since pro-democracy protests ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February are keen to show they are committed to holding to account members of the previous government, which many Egyptians saw as steeped in graft.

Ahmed Nazif speaks during a parliament session in Cairo May 11, 2010. (REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Files)

Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif is now detained pending investigations and Youssef Boutrous Ghali, the former finance minister, is abroad.

The prosecution said the two men were charged with irregularities in procuring vehicle licences, which the prosecution said cost the state about 92 million Egyptian pounds ($16 million) in lost revenue.

Habib el-Adli, the former interior minister, who is already facing trial on charges of killing protesters and graft, will be tried on the same charges.

Many investors and businessmen highly regarded Nazif and Boutros-Ghali for spearheading free-market reforms that helped boost economic growth to around an annual 7 percent in the three years before the 2008 global economic crisis.

The reforms included a sharp decrease in import tariffs, a flat income tax of 20 percent and a reorganisation of the banking sector that included the sale of government stakes in joint venture banks and the privatisation of Bank of Alexandria.

Many ordinary Egyptians, however, see Nazif and Boutros-Ghali as corrupt, a view that fuelled the mass demonstrations that ended Mubarak's 30-year rule.

Several former ministers and senior government officials are already facing trial for graft, including the former housing, tourism, and trade and industry ministers.

(Writing by Dina Zayed, editing by Miral Fahmy)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Tanzania to guard oil, gas ships from pirates

Posted: 17 Apr 2011 06:12 AM PDT

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania has ordered its army to escort ships searching for oil and gas off its coast to protect them from Somali pirates.

The East African country has licensed at least 17 international companies to look for offshore and onshore energy reserves.

"Due to increased piracy attacks, we have been compelled to beef up security in our territory," Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda told parliament late on Saturday.

"The first step has been to provide escorts to vessels that request security assistance when they enter our territorial waters and the second is for the government to provide protection to vessels exploring for gas and oil in our ocean."

Companies exploring in Tanzania include Canada's Artumas Group Inc (AGI), France's Maurel & Prom, Norway's StatoilHydro ASA, Shell International and Ras al-Khaimah Gas Commission of United Arab Emirates.

Somalia's lack of effective central government has allowed piracy to flourish offshore and deep into the Indian Ocean despite a flotilla of international warships.

Armed pirate gangs have made millions of dollars demanding ransoms for ships captured as far south as the Seychelles and eastwards towards India.

Pinda said Tanzanian authorities had so far arrested 11 Somali pirates in its waters and prosecuted all the suspects.

Tanzania this month postponed its fourth deep offshore bidding round to next year to allow it to offer new blocks discovered by a new seismic survey.

(Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Heavens)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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