Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

27 May 2012

Ethiopia: Prosecutors Withdraw Criminal Charge Against Haile

Prosecutors at a federal lower court withdrew the criminal charge filed against Ethiopian track athlete, Haile Gebrselassie, on the grounds of wrongful accusation, terminating all other legal tussles Haile had with one of the tenants of Haile Building, owned and managed by Haile's company; the case has now been resolved through negotiation.

The prosecutors made the announcement on June 5, 2012, before the Federal First Instance Yeka District Court, Second Criminal Division, which followed negotiations between the two sides.

In the charge, filed on April 26, 2012, by Federal Prosecutor Terhas Gebre-egzyabher, Haile was accused of changing the lock on the door to a room rented to Addis Abeba Car Purchase, Sales, & Rental Plc in his Haile Building, in order to evict the occupant that had been using the room under a rental agreement.

He was charged due to the lack of a legitimate legal right to change the lock of the door, according to the charge.

Nonetheless, in an application presented to the Court on June 4, 2012, a day before the date set for hearing of the case, Haile objected to the charge, claiming that the tenancy contract signed between the company under his management, Haile & Alem International Plc, and the managing director of the car dealing company, Addis Degefu, gave him the right to take the property of the tenant from the rented room in the case of the latter failing to comply with his payment obligations.

He had acted in his managerial capacity as guaranteed in the contract, he claimed, in changing the lock, removing the property from the room, and storing it in his warehouse.

This led the prosecutors, who received a copy of the objection, to admit that the charge was filed wrongly thereby announcing the withdrawal without waiting for the Court's ruling on the objections of Haile.

Following the announcement of the termination of the accusation, Haile and Addis Degefu were summoned to the Justice Office of Yeka District, located a few metres away from the Court.

The charge was withdrawn in reference to a copy of the contractual agreement signed between the two, which was not available in the criminal file, during the filling of the charge and later came to the attention of prosecutors upon presentation as an attachment to Haile's statement of objection, Fekade Tsega, head of the District's Justice Office, told the two parties.

Verifying, whether the attached copy was a true copy of the contract between the two, Fekade said, however, that including such a provision, which, once included in a contract, serves as a law between the contracting parties giving Haile the legitimate authority to do what he did, is not advisable.

Nonetheless, Fekade advised Haile and Addis to settle the legal tussle between them, including the one in the Federal First Instance Court Lideta District Division, which provided a ruling in favour of Haile, ordering Addis to pay a total of 92,000 Br in unpaid fees for the rented room.

Fekade offered to host negotiations between the two for a smooth ending of the disagreements that led them into the legal battle.

"Let us finish the case in a way that respects the rights of both of you," Fekade said at his Office.

The contract was not part of the file based on which the charge was framed, and the prosecutor did not see the content of the contract leading to the inappropriate accusation, Fekade told Fortune.

Upon securing the consent of the parties, Fekade facilitated negotiations between the two on June 8, 2012, leading to the consensus that ended the legal battle between them.

Haile agreed to give up the 92,000 Br that he was awarded by the lower Court, while Addis agreed not to take the case to a higher Court for an appeal. Nonetheless, the 15pc VAT and the 30pc corporate tax payable on the money was agreed to be shared between them. Haile agreed to pay 15pc of the corporate tax while the remaining will be paid by Addis.

Hence, Addis will take the properties of his company from the warehouse of Haile's company. Upon shaking hands, Fekade apologised to Haile for the inconvenience he suffered, for the mistake was from his office.

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