12 August 2017

Ethiopia: Corruption Arrests Take Dozens By Storm

Photo: Addis Fortune
Samson Wondimu, communications director of the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA).

The number of individuals arrested in relation to the recent high-level corruption case has reached 55 after the recent arrest of Samson Wondimu, communications director of the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA), on August 11, 2017.

The case also zoomed in on assets of over 200 individuals, who were claimed to have an affiliation with the suspects, following a court injunction ordered by the middle of last week. Fifteen companies were also taken by the injunction wind, including Gemshu Beyene Construction, Aser Construction, Tina Construction, D.M.C. Construction, Yemane Girmay General Contractor, Trans National Computer Technology and Hysem Engineering S.C.

Arrests in relation to the grand corruption case set out first on July 25, 2017, with the detention of 34 government officials, businesspeople and brokers. The government officials were from the Sugar Corporation, the Addis Ababa City Roads Authority (AACRA), the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MoFEC).

Then later, three individuals were added from the Addis Ababa Housing Development Project Office (AAHDPO) on July 29, 2017. Since then, the number of suspects has grown each day, reaching 55 last Friday.

Among the suspects, MoFEC takes the lead with 14 detainees - including its State Minister Alemayehu Gujo - who were suspected of corruption in relation to the procurement process of an Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS).

The Federal High Court second Criminal Bench is presiding over the case, the examination having started from July 29, 2017. The Federal Police Crime Investigation Division requested from the Court 14 additional days to conduct further examinations and construct the case while the suspects remain behind bars.

On the other side, the suspects pleaded with the Court to let them walk under bail rights, citing several reasons such as health problems and family responsibilities. After hearing both sides, the Court accepted the Police's request to conduct further investigations while keeping the suspects under its custody.

In the meantime, the arrests have kept on adding more officials and brokers that were suspected to have their hands in the complicated web. Two days after the Court held the first session, the Attorney General, Getachew Ambaye, held a press briefing providing details on the proceeding of the case. He announced that the suspects had reached 42, including 32 government officials, three brokers and seven investors.

In the briefing, Getachew asserted that the arrests were made following long-time investigations conducted by the police, after the audit gaps revealed by the Federal and Addis Ababa Auditor General Offices. Tips from the public, especially employees of the institutions, were also taken into consideration in the investigation processes, according to him.

He asserted that a damage of 198 million Br was caused by alleged corruption acts from AACRA, 41.8 million Br from AAHDPO, 1.3 billion Br from ERA, 1.2 billion Br from the Sugar Corporation, and 1.1 billion Br from MoFEC.

The arrests expanded to the high-level government officials a week after Getachew's press conference, adding the State Minister Alemayehu to the list following the lifting of his impunity by the Parliament on August 4, 2017. Ziad Woldegebriel, former director general of ERA, and Kiros Desta, former deputy director general of the Sugar Corporation, were also arrested on the same date.

In the middle of last week, the police and the suspects appeared before the Court. The Federal Police asked for more days for investigation while keeping the suspects detained. On the other side, suspects argued to be granted bail rights, medical treatment and visitation rights.

The Court then gave its orders denying their request for bail and gave the police an additional 14 days to conduct further examinations and adjourned the case to August 21 and 23, 2017.

"The arrests may continue, in the midst of the recent aggressive investigation," said Negeri Lencho, minister of the Government Communication Affairs Office.

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