16 September 2017

Ethiopia: Corruption Probe Crawls to Mesfin Tefera

The Federal Police Commission Crime Investigation Division has arrested the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise (ESLSE), Mesfin Tefera, on Thursday, September 14, 2017. This raised the number of individuals arrested in connection with the recent grand corruption turmoil to 129.

Mesfin was jailed the same day after arriving into the country from his work travel, according to the Police Commission.

Mesfin, who was heading the forwarding division of the Enterprise, was the only deputy of the Enterprise who had not been taken into custody until last week.

He has served the Enterprise as acting CEO after the resignation of Ahmed Tusa- the five year serving chief executive officer of the Enterprise and the current head of Oromia Regional Government's Revenue Bureau. Then, Mesfin gave up the position of acting CEO after Roba Megersa, former deputy director general of the Ethiopian Maritime Affairs Authority (EMAA) was assigned to head the Enterprise.

Mesfin is also a board chairperson of Lucy Insurance S.C, one of the late entrants in the insurance industry.

Mesfin's colleagues, Desalegn Gebrehiwot, deputy CEO of Port & Terminal Services, Alemu Ambaye, deputy CEO of Shipping Services, Sisay Abaferda, deputy CEO for the Corporate Service, Siraj Abdullahi, director of Plan & Business Development and Samuel Melaku, head of Finance were detained three weeks ago.

The commission took the detainees except Mesfin to the high court on September 1, 2017 alleging their involvement in corruption crimes.

Mesfin, along with his deputies, managed to see the revenues of the Shipping's Enterprise reaching over 10 billion Br in the past fiscal year. The detained executives of the Enterprise are accused of causing a total loss of 774 million dollars to the Enterprise. They are also suspected of involving in the squandering of 656 million tonnes of sugar and alleged misuse of 10 million dollars.

Also, the executives are suspected for the congestion of containers at Djibouti Port causing a loss of 25,000 dollars a day for three months. All of the prisoners are also suspected for the overstaying of containers in Djibouti that has forced the government to lose 760 million dollars, according to the Commission.

In the same week when Mesfin was jailed, the Federal Attorney General filed charges against the corruption suspects under four different files. Seven individuals from Tendaho Sugar Factory and five from each Addis Ababa Housing Development Project Office (AAHDPO), Addis Ababa City Roads Authority (AACRA) and Methara Sugar Factory were charged by the prosecutors.

Feleke Tadesse, former manager of Tendaho Sugar Factory, Fekade Haile, director general of the Addis Ababa City Roads Authority, Tsedale Mamo, manager of the Addis Ababa Housing Development Project Office (AAHDP), Abebe Tesfaye, former deputy director of Tendaho Sugar Factory and Zenebe Yimam, former director Methehara Sugar Factory were amongst 22 high profile individuals charged by the prosecutor last week.

This comes after the suspects stayed in prison for almost a month awaiting the conclusion of the Federal Police Commission's investigations and submission of its findings to the prosecutors.

The Attorney General filed the charges on September 4, 2017, after a charge was brought against two suspects from Tendaho Sugar Factory, Tesfaye Dimtsu, former finance head of Tendaho Sugar Factory, and Asnake Mihretu, an electrician who works at Tendaho Sugar Factory. They are accused of for allegedly procuring below standard generators against the specification of the Tendaho.

Since then, the charges brought against government officials continued to rise, making Fekade and his closest colleagues to be charged next.

Fekade, Ahemedin Buser, head of contracts for Road Construction & Supervision, Wasihun Sheferaw, head of Condominium Housing Road Projects at the AACRA, Mulugeta Abraha, head of Infrastructure Design and Minash Levi, a major shareholder of Tidhar Construction Ltd were charged. They were accused of bringing a total damage of 132.4 million Br on the government, according to the prosecutor.

The prosecutor's claim stated that the aforementioned suspects had committed acts of maladministration by allegedly awarding road projects to Tidhar Construction, an Israeli based company without a performance guarantee bond. Although Tidhar had won the road project stretching from Megenagna roundabout to the headquarters of the Ethiopian Geological Survey, the construction firm did not overtake the project despite getting payment from AACRA.

The AACRA officials were not the only ones that were charged by the prosecutor last week. The former officials of Tendaho Sugar Factory also faced the same fate.

Feleke, Abebe, Ephrem Alemayehu, deputy director of procurement and administration directorate, Yosef Begashaw, farming operations deputy manager, Wendimagegn Tafesse, land development and preparation team leader, Solomon Genete, land development and preparation supervisor and Yemane Girmay, a major shareholder of Yemane Girmay General Contractor (YGGC) were also charged.

The charges brought against the officials and Yemane are mainly related to the project of Tendaho sugar factory awarded to YGGC four years ago.

Feleke and his co-defendants gave a project to YGGC for 82.9 million Br while another firm Batu Construction undertook the same project at the cost of 29.6 million Br, according to the charges.

Ephrem and Abebe were also specifically accused of floating a restricted tender for a project involving 10 million Br against the procurement manual of the corporation. They are accused of having an intention of benefiting YGGC particularly, according to the prosecutor.

Yosef, Wendimagegn and Solomon, on their part, have allegedly granted Yemane a 1,000ha land development project. They allegedly paid him the full amount of the agreed payment even though he developed only 487.1ha, forcing the Corporation to lose 42.5 million Br of undue payment. The court denied bail rights to all suspects in this case and adjourned the case to October 18, 2017.

The final charges brought by the prosecutors were on defendants from AAHDPO and Methara for awarding projects to YGGC without a tender and failing to collect interest on delayed projects, respectively.

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