Federal prosecutors filed an amended charge against Kinfe Dagnew (Maj. Gen), former director general of the Metals & Engineering Corporation (MetEC), and 13 co-defendants, accusing them of high corruption in the procurement of two shipping vessels.
The amended charge, filed last Friday, March 22, 2019, does not have a content difference with a prior charge filed two and a half months ago but differs in its composition.
The three-count charges against 14 defendants include the former deputy CEOs of the Corporation, Tena Kurundi (Bir Gen), Berhe W. Michael (Col), Mulu W. Gebriael (Col) and Tekeste H. Mariam (Col). Filed at the 15th Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court Lideta Bench, the charge alleges the defendants caused the loss of 544.7 million Br in public funds.
The first count is against five defendants including Kinfe and alleges that the defendants made illegal procurements and mismanaged two shipping vessels, Abay Wenze and Abiyot. The vessels were procured from the Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Enterprise for 3.2 million dollars and were intended to be used as scrap metal.
"The defendants acted corruptly to have the Corporation procure the ships knowing full well that the vessels were not seaworthy," reads the charge. "The decision made by the defendants is in violation of law and oversteps the institution's mandate established at its formation."
The second count, involving the other nine defendants, alleges that they caused the Corporation to spend 32.2 million dollars to renovate the vessels, although they were purchased to be used as scrap metal.
One of the nine defendants, Yekunoamlak Tesfaye (Maj) complained that the prosecutors incorrectly wrote his military title as captain.
"I earned the title for my achievements in the military," he grumbled, "and I've repeatedly pointed this out to the court to be corrected."
The third count was exclusively against Kinfe, who is accused of authorizing the direct sale of the vessels without following legal and proper procedures of open public bidding as required.
"Abusing his authority, Kinfe ordered the vessels to be sold to companies he himself shortlisted," reads the charge. "The vessels were sold at a loss to the Corporation that amounted to 607,432 dollars."
The prosecutors filed a list of 24 witnesses and 70 documentary items of evidence to support their case.
The defendants' lawyers requested that the court order the prosecutors to identify which witness is for which defendant in the case. The prosecutors objected, saying they will specify witnesses for a particular case once they complete framing the case.
The defendants also pleaded not guilty, stating that they did not commit the crimes stated in the charges. The judges adjourned the case to June 4, 2019, to hear the prosecutors' witnesses.