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News: Police detain dozens in new corruption crackdown, terrorism allegations

Mahlet Fasil

Addis Abeba, April 12/2019 –  The federal Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye told local media today that the police have detained 59 individuals suspected of embezzling millions from three public institutions. He also said individuals suspected of plotting terror attacks were detained in the last two weeks.

According to Berhanu, as a result of three months investigations, 59 individuals, including government officials and businesses, were arrested on suspicion of grand corruption involving millions of dollars. The government officials are former officials from the Ethiopian water Works Construction Enterprise, (WWCE), Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service and Pharmaceuticals Fund and Supply Agency.

The corruption allegations involving WWCE officials is related to the embezzlement of 55 million birr (approximately US$2.3 million) of public funds during the procurement of reinforcing bar; whereas the case against former officials from Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service involves allegations of waste of public money worth more than US$ 23.7 million during the procurement of 400 metric tonnes of wheat.

According to the AG, senior officials from Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service conspired with former officials of Ethiopian Commercial Works Corporation to pay US$94 million to a foreign supplier for the procurement of the wheat while there was a second bidder which offered US$ 75 million, thereby costing the government an extra US$ 19 million. In the same procurement the officials are accused of using different transportation than using the state owned Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprise, forcing the government to spend more than UD$ four million in extra cost. In addition to that, the officials are accused of causing wheat and wheat flour shortages in the market.

Among the suspects include former director general of Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service; former director general of Ethiopian Commercial Works Corporation; deputy directors of Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service; former director general of Ethiopian water Works Construction Enterprise; former director general and deputy director general of Pharmaceuticals Fund and Supply Agency as well as other middle level officials suspected of co-conspiring.

Berhanu did not mention suspects by name and said detailed evidences and exhibits were documented so far, and the federal prosecutors were finalizing corruption charges. The weekly Fortune reported this morning that among the officials detained was Yigezu Daba, director general of the Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service.

Some of the 59 suspects have already appeared at the federal high court Lideta branch, 10th criminal bench this afternoon. They are ten suspects from Ethiopian water Works Construction Enterprise; seven suspects from Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service; and four suspects from Pharmaceuticals Fund and Supply Agency.

Terror Plot

Regarding the terror plots foiled by a joint work of security and intelligence, Berhanu said that individuals suspected of coordinating terror attack “in coordination with foreign terrorist organizations” were detained in the last two weeks. Although detailed investigations were pending, the joint work has so far uncovered that these individuals were preparing to stage terror attacks in public places and conference centers, among other places. Preliminary evidences suggest suspects were engaged in acts of taking pictures of selected places, preparing detailed attack plans, as well as preparing various ID cards and foreign passports. He added that because the nature of the attack indicated links with “foreign terrorist groups”, separate and detailed investigations with other partners were needed. However, preliminary investigations indicate links to “Al-Shabab” among others. Judging from evidences gathered so far, the scale of the planned terror attacks would have been vast and severe, he added. Further details into the investigations of this allegation will be provided in due course, he said.

The attorney general also highlighted recent works done by his office particularly in areas of amending former laws and proclamations that were prohibitive of nurturing the political space such as the recently gazetted Civil Society law, as well as the ongoing consultations process of amending the anti terrorism and media laws and other laws.

With regard to works on controlling the illegal flow of arms, Berhanu said the police have continued seizing illegal weapons including heavy machine guns and other types small arms in many parts of the country. He also said that several works were done to restore the rule of law in various parts of the country and that dozens of individuals suspected of instigating violence in various places throughout the country were currently facing trials. AS

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