9 July 2017

Ethiopia: Kebede Tesera Walks Free Under Presidential Pardon

Photo: Blogtreprenuer/Flickr
(file photo).

The 75-year-old businessman, who was accused of usury, has been in prison for the past eight years

Kebede Tesera, who was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for usury, tax evasion, false evidence, and money laundering charges, walks free 17 years ahead of his sentence after a presidential pardon. He was released last Saturday on July 1, 2017.

The 75-year-old businessman has been in prison for the past eight years as the Federal High Court found him guilty of criminal charges brought against him by prosecutors of the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA).

Initially, the High Court sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment, which was later raised to 25 following ERCA's appeal.

He walks free in the midst of his appeal at the Federal Supreme Court lodged for reduction of the sentence, which was finally dropped by him after his release.

In June, President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) extended his pardon to a total of 92 prisoners, including Kebede, that were proposed by a Board of Pardon deemed eligible for a pardon.

Disappointed with the High Court's sentence in 2010, Kebede appealed to the Supreme Court like ERCA did. After reviewing the case, the Supreme Court dropped the initial charge of illegal banking against him. But also raised the sentence by five years.

However, in may 2017, Kebede again brought the new appeal to the Federal Supreme Court following the issuance of the amended tax proclamation. He sought the appellate court to review the sentence brought against him with the new proclamation.

Kebede argued that under the newly enacted law, the collective sentence of the total charges brought against him should be re-calculated and lowered as opposed to the 25 years he had been serving. But in the meantime, the pardon announcement was declared.

Besides the sentence, he was also subjected to a 300,000 Br fine and his 3.7 million Br was confiscated by the government as the money was claimed to be generated from usury. The government also confiscated his nine-storey building located at Arat Kilo right next to Tourist Hotel. Last week, the Federal Judgment Execution Directorate auctioned this building and sold it to Nib Bank with a bid price of 680 million Br.

The building was sold after a six-year legal battle started between Kebede and prosecutors of ERCA. Later, the case even involved Nib, who lent 55 million Br to him and demanded 120 million Br with interest.

For Yohannes Woldegebriel, a legal expert, this pardon made for Kebede is legitimate.

"Previously pardons were granted to many serious offences than that of usury," said Yohannes.

Our efforts to get the comments of the lawyers of Kebede were not fruitful as they declined to comment on the issue.

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