Egypt court bars some state bodies from land sales


A court has scrapped presidential decrees that allowed some Egyptian state bodies to sell land and pocket the proceeds, newspapers reported the latest move to weed out graft after Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

Several deals to sell state land to developers have become symbols of the kind of cronyism that protesters who pushed Mubarak from power said was endemic under his 30-year rule.

Those who raised lawsuits accused state bodies of selling land at below market prices directly to business executives viewed as close to the Mubarak government, rather than using auctions that would have secured a better price for the state, Reuters reports.

Some deals in which land was sold to property developers had been challenged before Mubarak was ousted on February 11 but such lawsuits have multiplied since then with anti-corruption drive.
“The Supreme Administrative Court ruled to annul presidential decrees that allowed some named sovereign entities the right to sell state land and receive the revenues of these sales for themselves, and depriving the state budget from these revenues,” Judge Magdy el-Agaty said.

Agaty was quoted by al-Akhbar and other newspapers.

He did not name the entities that would be covered by the order, but analysts said it could include major ministries such as the Finance Minstry and Interior Ministry, as well as other state institutions such as the military.

Shares in Egyptian real estate firms, which have been hammered by the lawsuits, have been helped more recently by signals that Egypt’s military-backed government is searching for a solution to disputes over past state land sales.

The newspaper el-Youm el-Sabaa reported on May 16 that the military rulers were preparing a law that could help protect business executives who had bought land under the old government from prosecution.