Egypt abolishing jail terms for businessmen

The Egyptian parliament to abolish laws that imprison investors. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 February 2020

Egypt abolishing jail terms for businessmen

  • “Harming public money or the health of citizens entails serving sentences. Any economic or administrative violations are punishable”

CAIRO: The Egyptian parliament has announced that laws that imprison investors have been scratched, stressing that imposing jail time on financial wrongdoers affects investment in Egypt.
Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said in a public parliamentary session that he and parliament will not allow investment to “escape” from Egypt, “so the idea of replacing imprisonment with deterrent fines must be preserved.”
“I will never allow the imprisonment of businessmen involved in financial violations,” Abdel-Aal said.
Egypt’s parliament takes its cue from countries which have abolished penalties to safeguard the freedom of investors in economic legislation, in support and encouragement of investment, said Economic Affairs Committee Chairman in Parliament Ahmed Samir. Samir said the principle of not imprisoning investors in financial crimes was approved by parliament at the beginning of the current legislative term but is not final.
He explained that investors do not enjoy absolute immunity against imprisonment and that there are crimes in which jail is necessary, including harming public money or the interest of the state or harming the health of citizens.
“Harming public money or the health of citizens entails serving sentences. Any economic or administrative violations are punishable,” Samir told Arab News.
Mohsen Adel, former head of the Investment Authority, stressed that Egypt has taken the view of international institutions which is believed may encourage investment incentives to attract direct foreign investment, and that preventing businessmen from going to jail guarantees the protection of the investor who works in good faith and is similar to international standards.

SPEEDREAD

Egypt’s parliament takes its cue from countries which have abolished penalties to safeguard the freedom of investors in economic legislation with the aim to support and encourage investment.

Ahmed El-Zayat, a member of the Egyptian Businessmen’s Association, said the abolition by parliament of imprisoning businessmen in economic legislation is aimed at encouraging investors to invest more and to provide all logistical support to help deal with global competition and attract foreign investment.
El-Zayat pointed to efforts such as solving the problems of troubled factories, refinancing, operating, reconciling with investors and providing a safe business environment that provides the factors needed to increase investments.
El-Zayat said doing away with incarceration of investors and replacing that with financial fines and providing new mechanisms to tighten control over economic business to prevent any excesses and achieve economic justice will raise the confidence of businessmen in the Egyptian economy, especially in industry. He said this will realize the state’s vision of increasing Egyptian exports $55 billion over the coming years.
Mohamed Waheed, chairman of Catalyst Company and founder of the first electronic market for trade in Egyptian products, said the state’s new initiative is a “legislative boom” which will add to the advantages and incentives guaranteed by the investment law, making Egypt the most prominent destination for investors as it enhances its competitiveness and increases demand for work and investment.

Waheed emphasized that the new investment law and its amendments, in addition to investment incentives and positive benefits for projects, organizes the file of penalties for the economic sector within the framework of a general approach from the state to develop the investment environment in a way that enhances its competitiveness and elements of its attraction to local and foreign investments.
He said this vision is a message from the state that supports serious investment and protects well-intentioned investors from the risks and fluctuations of local and global markets.
Al-Waheed added that this will guarantee the seriousness of work and strengthen the values of governance, transparency and serious competition on the basis of common interests and hard work to reap the fruits of development without measures that limit market capabilities and hinder opportunities for expansion and prosperity.


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 11 August 2020

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”