Hesham Genina: The man who fought Sisi’s systemic corruption alone

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Hesham Genina, former head of the Accountability State Authority who had been jailed since 2018, was released on Tuesday after serving a five-year imprisonment sentence issued against him by a military court on charges of publishing false news against the Egyptian army institution. Before release, Genina was referred to the Supreme State Security Prosecution to be interrogated in another case on charges of joining a terrorist group. The SSSP released him, but the referral was considered an ear pinch for Genina, so he could quickly be brought back into jail.

A long journey Genina had in public affairs left impressive impacts, from the judiciary, where he started his career and joined the independence current in Egypt’s justice against Mubarak’s dictatorship, then to the ASA, where Genina worked hard against corruption announcing in 2015 that corruption costs the state over EGP 600 billion a year. And finally, after being dismissed from the apparatus, he started a political career by joining General Sami Anan’s campaign for the presidency before being arrested with Anan to clear the field for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Anti-corruption journey

In September 2012, Genina was appointed by President Mohamed Morsi as the head of the ASA, the state apparatus responsible for reviewing the accounts of all the state institutions, with a straightforward task to dismantle the systemic corruption in the state institutions. The former justice and head of the Cairo Appeal Court took little time to understand the corruption network before being hit by the military coup that toppled President Morsi. Genina did not oppose the coup as he preferred to keep his position as an independent professional official, but conflicts rapidly surfaced. Three months after the coup, Genina reported financial violations in the National Telecom Regulatory Authority to the attorney general, and a handful of consultants in the apparatus acquired EGP 86 million (equals then about USD 13 billion) as rewards for themselves. Adel Abdel Majeed, the minister of justice in the coup’s government, was involved in the case as one of the consultants of the NTRA, and Genina stated he reported to PM Hazem al-Beblawi about the suspicions before forming the cabinet. Beblawi told him Abdel Majeed would not be appointed.

Genina’s fervency put him in conflict with the points of strength in the Egyptian state, such as the Interior Ministry that Genina said contains billions of pounds worth of violations, particularly in the “special funds”, which are funds established by presidential orders to receive revenues of public services fees and fines but out of the general budget. Hitting the heart of Egyptian security, Genina said violations in the National Security Apparatus, which is Egypt’s secret police, cost EGP 2.5 billion (equals then USD 357 million) a year. The public estates were the issue of climax between Genina and the state’s dragons, as Genina accused senior officials of the Intelligence and the state-sponsored judge Ahmed Zend, who led the anti-Morsi current in the judiciary, of seizing state lands illegally using their powers.

Genina became a headache for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who appointed Genina’s adversary, Ahmed Zend, as a justice minister in 2015. One of Zend’s first works was to prepare a bill authorizing Sisi to dismiss any of the heads of the auditing apparatuses in case of working against state security, losing status, or malfunctioning. The legislation was passed by the puppet parliament in July 2015 as law 89, although it breaches the constitution that gives immunity to the heads of those apparatuses. A few months after the legislation, the chance came for Sisi to overthrow the annoying official. Genina stated in December 2015 that a massive study by the ASA revealed that the overall cost of corruption in the state’s institutions between 2012 and 2015 reached EGP 600 billion (USD 70 billion then). The government did not hide its rage towards Genina’s statements, and Sisi ordered a committee to investigate Genina’s statement. The committee concluded that Genina’s statement was “exaggerated, misleading and unreliable,” and Sisi dismissed him.

The Egyptian regime decided in vengeance to humiliate Genina. The senior official was referred to the SSSP, which accused him of publishing false news that harmed the Egyptian economy and disturbed social peace and security. He was prosecuted and sentenced to suspended one-year imprisonment and 20 thousand pounds as a fine. His daughter, Shorouk, was dismissed from her job in the administrative prosecution by a presidential decree. Since 2015, Egypt’s Corruption Perceptions Index has declined from the 88th rank among 168 states down to the 130th rank among 180, with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank criticizing the country for misgovernance and widespread corruption.

To politics

After dismissal, Genina turned to politics. During protests against Tiran and Sanafir concession agreement with Saudi Arabia in 2016, Genina scathed the regime for ceding Egyptian lands and breaching the Administrative Court’s ruling against the agreement. One year later, he worked with General Sami Anan, the former chief of staff of the Egyptian military, to run for the presidency against Sisi. Anan named Genina as a vice president, and the campaign won the popularity and raised hopes as a prestigious military candidate could be a natural alternative to the current army tyrant. But what happened was shocking. The military arrested Anan, charging him with “running for the presidency without permission from the armed forces.” The presidential elections in 2018 turned into a farce with no competitors against Sisi after he arrested three candidates, which pushed the fourth, Khaled Ali, to withdraw. A puppet candidate, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, was pushed with him himself, declaring he would vote for Sisi.

Genina was attacked and assaulted in the street in January 2018 by thugs, who beat him hard to near death. One month later, the military arrested him after he told Arabic Post that Anan possessed documents against senior state figures. The records would be disclosed if Anan’s life were threatened. After two months, he was sentenced to jail by a military court. It is not a man’s story but of a country seized on by a mafia headed by a corrupt general who rules the state as a tyrant.