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Arabic Press Review: Egypt intelligence officials involved in Israel gas deal

Meanwhile, Kushner tries to help MBS out of Khashoggi crisis; hundreds of Palestinians missing in Syria; and Algeria and Jordan face economic troubles
An agreement to buy Israeli natural gas and resell it to Egypt was announced earlier this year in a deal worth around $15 billion

Jared Kushner tries to save Mohammed bin Salman

Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and a senior adviser of US president Donald Trump, is doing the best he can to rescue Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the wake of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to al-Quds al-Arabi.

The London-based newspaper alleges that Israeli security apparatuses had provided Kushner with a collection of old photographs showing Khashoggi meeting prominent leaders of militant Islamist movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kushner is reportedly attempting to persuade Trump to publish these images in order to discredit Khashoggi and link him to fundamentalist movements and terrorism from 40 years ago.

The CIA has apparently objected to Kushner's attempt to manipulate these pictures in media in a clear attempt to ease the crisis that is haunting bin Salman, according to the newspaper.

Al-Quds al-Arabi went on to report that Israeli intelligence sources were offering advice and guidance vis-a-vis the Khashoggi crisis to bin Salman’s office via Kushner and his staff.

Egyptian intelligence agency stands to profit from Israel gas deal

The Egyptian company that recently signed an agreement to import gas from Israel and resell it to the Egyptian government is owned by the Egyptian intelligence agency - which will earn the largest part of the profits to be generated from the importation operations of Israeli gas to Egypt - according to a press report published by Mada Masr website.

Documents revealed that while East Gas Co., which is the biggest beneficiary of the importation of Israeli gas and its resale to the Egyptian state, is a private company, most of its shares are owned by the Egyptian General Intelligence, which earns 80 percent of its profits.

According to Mada Masr, Chief Executive of the company Mohammad Shuaib was appointed to its board of directors as a representative of the intelligence agency. The chairman of the board of directors of the company has in fact always been an agent or deputy head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate.

The documents revealed that the General Intelligence Directorate has also signed the deal with Dolphinus Holdings over half of its shares with the Egyptian company that will buy the Israeli gas.

In order to complete the deal, conceal the real Egyptian parties that are involved and that are benefiting from its profits, exempt them from paying taxes and protect them from any possible legal accountability, Mada Masr said, a number of front companies in the British Virgin Islands, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the Netherlands have reportedly been established in the past several months without directly connecting to Egypt.

In February, three companies from Egypt, Israel and the United States announced that they had reached an agreement to buy Israeli natural gas and resell it to Egypt in a deal worth $15 billion.

Hundreds of Palestinians missing in Syria

The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, an independent bloc monitoring the situation of Palestinian refugees during the Syrian war, has accused the Syrian government of forcibly disappearing more than 1,700 Palestinian prisoners, including children, women and elderly people, according to Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat.

The group, based in Beirut, said that according to its documentation, 558 out of 1,696 detained Palestinian refugees had died as a result of torture.

It pointed out, however, that the real number of detainees and victims of torture was likely much higher than documented, as the Syrian government has remained silent about who it detains and the families of many victims have chosen not to go public about the death of their children for fear of being prosecuted by Syrian authorities.

Algeria expects an ‘explosion’ in prices of imported goods

The Algerian Ministry of Trade warned of an approaching "price explosion of imported consumer goods" starting early next year due to a planned 200 percent increase in tax rates on imported goods. Such significant augmentation would be a key factor in destroying Algerians’ purchasing power, according to newspaper Echorouk.

The tax hike comes amid a freeze in wages and the deterioration of the Algerian dinar, the newspaper reported.

The phenomenon of rising prices is no longer linked to religious and national events, as used to be the case in the past, but has evolved to become familiar characteristic of the Algerian economy. Algerian citizens, who visit markets on a regular basis, are profoundly aware of this fact and know that prices are out of control, according to the Echorouk report.

The newspaper noted that increases in the prices of several local goods - such as cleaning products, dairy products, children's supplies and various alimentary commodities - had surpassed more than 30 percent lately.

External crises cost Jordan $17 billion

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz estimates that economic crises worldwide have cost Jordan about $17 billion - pointing to the global financial crisis, low investments, border closures as well as the disruption of Egyptian gas exports as major factors in this loss of income, according to Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad.

Razzaz pointed to the measures taken by the Jordanian government to address the budget deficit and the rise in public debt ratio of the country’s GDP, expressing his confidence in the vigour of these resolutions to place Jordan on the right economic path and transform challenges into opportunities.

Regarding the draft income tax bill that sparked widespread protests and led to the sacking the previous government, Razzaz stated that authorities have conducted a comprehensive study about the tax burden imposed on Jordanian citizens, which accounts for 26 percent of the GDP.

The prime minister also stressed that the Jordanian government was working on a bill to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor in addition to creating a balance between direct taxes, such as the income tax, and indirect financial obligations, such as the sales tax, al-Ghad newspaper added.