Win Some, Lose Some on Grand ERCA Corruption Case
The Federal High Court passed decisions to drop some charges while upholding others
The high profile corruption case brought against high ranking government officials and prominent businessmen back in October 2013 by the Federal Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission, last week saw the High Court dropping some charges and upholding others.
Despite having some charges dropped, all defendants were ordered by the court to prepare their defenses for some 93 charges.
In a large scale operation that saw the apprehension of around 60 high profile individuals, the government claims it has lost close to 800 million Br due to the alleged corruption offences perpetrated by the suspects. The offences allegedly took place between 2008 and 2012 while Melaku Fenta, the Netherlands educated former head of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA), was at the helm of the Authority and was credited with boosting government revenue from 19 billion Br in 2008 to 84.2 billion Br in 2012 from taxes.
Melaku, his deputy Gebrewahid Gebremichael and another band of senior ERCA officials faced corruption charges along with prominent businessmen, freight forwarders and their families. Among others, Ketema Kebede, owner of K.K. Plc which engages in various business activities was accused of delving into a business initiative strictly reserved for banks by giving out loans to people and has been ordered by the court to defend himself against this charge.
Ketema was also ordered to prepare his defense for allegedly failing to pay the government just over 49 million Br from vat and profit tax.
Another prominent business person indicted in these corruption charges is Simachew Kebede, owner of Intercontinental Hotel under the auspises of DH Simex Pvt. Ltd. Co in Addis Abeba. Simachew was accused of abusing an incentive afforded by the government where he was allowed to import construction finishing materials duty free for a property he was developing. But he allegedly sold the materials for third parties. However, while his actions warranted an indictment, he was not charged in a court owing to his connection with top ranking officials at ERCA.
The anti-corruption commission later on charged Simachew. But while the case was being processed in a court, a new legislation enacted by the government rendered his offences only punishable by administrative measures.
Though Simachew’s legal woes appeared to have waned with the coming of the new legislation, he still remains under custody for unpaid 20 million Br in vat and 29.4 million Br in profit tax.
The new proclamation on revenue has removed criminal liability of such cases, and instead prescribes a monetary penalty and paying the duty in full.
Fekru Maru, MD, a Swedish citizen of Ethiopian origin, who runs Addis Cardiac Center was accused of receiving special treatment from the top officials at ERCA when he imported some medical supplies and requested duty free customs clearance procedures. The charge was dropped due to lack of evidence.
Nega Gebregziabher, shareholder of Netsa Pvt. Ltd. Co. and owner of Nega City Mall, was accused of misusing duty free imported resources for unintended purposes. He was, however, cleared of a charge which accused him of giving advice to a close friend to pay bribes to Gebrewahid and Merkneh Alemayehu, former prosecutor for the customs and revenue authority.
Getu Gelete, owner of Getu Commercial Center and Gets Pvt. Ltd. Co. which engaged in various business activities was ordered to prepare defenses against charges of selling duty free imported cement to supply government housing projects for third parties. His alleged link with former high ranking ERCA officials which allowed him to avoid being prosecuted was not fully proved and led to the charge being dropped.
A similar case of some cases being dropped and some being upheld was witnessed for the government officials in last week’s High Court decision.