Factbox: The Case Against Egypt’s Top Auditor

On July 28, former head of Egypt’s Central Auditing Authority (CAA) Hesham Geneina was convicted of spreading false news over a December 2015 report alleging that hundreds of thousands of pounds had been lost to government corruption. He was sentenced to a year in jail, and a fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds. Paying an additional 10,000 Egyptian pounds will allow Geneina to avoid serving the prison sentence.  

Geneina was appointed head of the CAA in 2012 by ousted president Mohamed Morsi. His conviction, almost six months after his comments on state corruption sparked an uproar, is not the first time Geneina has faced the courts.

Geneina was fined in April for remarks he made in 2013, alleging corruption by former Justice Minister Adel Abdul Hamid. In 2014, he was fined by the Cairo Criminal court for insulting Egypt’s Judges’ Club in statements made during an interview to al Masry al Youm. He has repeatedly claimed that he has faced smear campaigns, including allegations that he is a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer, which he says hampered his ability to do his job as Egypt’s top state auditor. In an interview with AP weeks after he was fined for insulting the justice minister, Geneina stood by his statements that he uncovered billions of dollars-worth of corruption in agencies including the police, intelligence agencies, and the judiciary. Egypt is “a country about to vanish because of corruption by successive regimes,” he told the Associated Press in 2014.

Allegations of Corruption

The latest case against Geneina began in December 2015 when he released a 350-page report that claimed Egypt had lost EGP 600 billion between 2012 and 2015 due to corruption in sectors including housing, agricultural, and petroleum. According to Geneina’s lawyer Ali Taha, the report found that 75 percent of the alleged graft stemmed from state lands illegally acquired by businessmen. The newspaper Youm7, which Geneina said misquoted him, reported the story on December 23, saying Geneina referred to the EGP 600 billion as the amount lost to corruption in 2015 alone.


On December 27, Sisi ordered the formation of a committee to investigate claims made by Geneina to the press about corruption. Geneina, whose claims sparked considerable controversy, was accused of inflating figures and “defaming the state.” An official presidential statement said, “after following several media reports, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi formed a ‘fact-finding’ committee headed by the head of the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) to examine what was communicated to the press and present its own report to the public opinion, in total transparency.”

On January 12, the committee accused Geneina of defaming state authorities and manipulating facts about state corruption. The committee described Geneina’s statements to the media about corruption as “misleading, exaggerating, and lacking credibility.” The committee also said that he had misused the word “corruption.”

Sisi ordered the committee to send its findings to Egypt’s parliament, where several Members of Parliament said they should refer Geneina to investigation on charges of publishing false news, and others called for him to be referred to prosecution. Member of Parliament Moustafa Bakry said a petition had been signed by 50 Members of Parliament and sent to Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal calling for Geneina’s prosecution. “Geneina has deliberately misled the public about corruption in Egypt,” Sameh Seif El-Yazal, the leader of parliament’s pro-Sisi majority coalition, In Support of Egypt, said. On January 20, Egyptian Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadiq imposed a gag order on the investigation, after a special parliamentary committee was formed to look into Geneina’s claims.

On March 28, Egypt’s State Security Prosecution issued a statement dismissing Geneina’s statements to the press in December as inaccurate. That same day, Sisi issued a presidential decree dismissing Geneina from his post as head of the CAA. While many parliamentarians praised the decision to dismiss Geneina, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party claimed that the decision was “completely prepared in advance” and based on a “mobilization campaign launched by the state media against Geneina.” The Arab Network for Human Rights Information also condemned the decision.

Days later, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) filed an appeal with the Administrative Judicial Court against Geneina’s dismissal. The rights organization said Sisi’s decree dismissing Geneina “circumvent[ed] the law” and violated the CAA’s independence as an auditing body. According to Article 215 of Egypt’s constitution, regulatory agencies, including the CAA, “shall be technically, financially and administratively independent.” Meanwhile, some members of the CAA urged Sisi to respect the constitutional protection of auditors following Geneina’s dismissal.

The state security prosecution continued investigating Geneina after his dismissal, and a warrant was reportedly issued for his arrest on charges of spreading false news and disturbing the peace. In May, Geneina was summoned for questioning by Egypt’s national security prosecutors over his corruption claims. He was referred to trial on June 2, and a day later he was freed after his family paid his bail — Geneina had refused to pay bail, saying doing so would give credence to the accusations against him. His trial began on June 7 before a Cairo misdemeanor court.

After going before the court on June 7, Geneina’s trial was postponed to June 21 to allow the defense team to obtain copies of case documents. Geneina’s lawyer told Daily News Egypt that he could not comment on the accusations against Geneina, but said he was confident in the Egyptian judicial system and that the judge would make a fair ruling.

Notably, Geneina’s daughter Shorouk Geneina, an aide for Egypt’s administrative prosecution, was dismissed on June 13 by presidential order. The Associated Press reported that her dismissal came from a decision issued by the Administrative Prosecution Authority’s Supreme Council on April 6 and ratified by a presidential decree on May 29. Al Shorouk reported that her dismissal was due to comments made on her Facebook page about former Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend, with whom her father has a fraught history. She said she would take legal action against her dismissal.


After the June 21 session of the trial, the court postponed to June 28. During the June 28 session, the Cairo Misdemeanor Court set July 28 as the date for its ruling in Geneina’s trial. “It’s as if uncovering corruption has become a crime,” Geneina told AFP that day regarding his trial. “This is part of a score-settling,” he said.

On July 28, the court convicted Geneina of “spreading false news.” Judge Haitham el-Saghair sentenced Geneina to one year in prison and a fine of EGP 20,000. Geneina has the ability to pay an addition EGP 10,000 in order to avoid prison time. Geneina’s lawyer said he would pay the fines to avoid jail time but would appeal the verdict. “This is the maximum penalty and we will appeal,” Taha told Reuters. He also said that the prosecutors had not shown proof of their accusations against Geneina and that the court had not examined his defense.

Reuters reported that Geneina did not attend the court session on July 28, but that he told the newswire last month that he had done nothing wrong and his case was being used to discourage others from speaking out against corruption.

The CAA is now being led by former prosecutor Hisham Badawi, who was appointed by the parliament on June 12 amidst Geneina’s trial.

Elissa Miller is a Program Assistant at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

Image: Hisham Geneina