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Judges Deny Bail to 33 Former Public Officials

April 20 , 2019

The first case involves three suspects including Yigezu Daba (above), former director general of the Service; Solomon Betre, former procurement business owner at the Service; and Jonse Gedefu, former deputy director of the Service.

Judges at the Federal High Court denied bail rights to 33 suspects working in four different federal institutions who were arrested two weeks ago on suspicion of high corruption crimes.

The judges of the Federal High Court Lideta Division 10th Criminal Bench granted the investigators an additional 14 days to continue their investigations. The police brought the suspects to the court under five different cases filed on April 12, 2019.

The suspects worked at the Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service, Ethiopian Trading Businesses Corporation, Pharmaceuticals Fund & Supply Agency and the then Ethiopian Water Works Construction Enterprise. The heads of these institutions and their deputies are among the suspects brought in front of the court.

The first case involves three suspects including Yigezu Daba, former director general of the Service; Solomon Betre, former procurement business owner at the Service; and Jonse Gedefu, former deputy director of the Service. The three are suspected of conducting an illegal procurement of 400,000tn of milling wheat.

Police allege that the suspects allowed for the procurement of the wheat to be delayed by issuing multiple tenders. They are also accused of improperly awarding Promising International on the fourth attempt of the procurement process, when the company should have been banned from participating in the tender process. They are additionally accused of allowing the company to submit a performance guarantee bond after eight weeks, contrary to the two week requirement stipulated in the procurement law.

The second case involves seven suspects including Tesfaye Birhanu, member of the bidding committee at the Service and executive of Ethiopian Trading Businesses Corporation. The police allege that the suspects awarded a wheat supply contract to Promising International, despite the fact that the company offered a bid 19 million dollars higher than the lowest bidder.

Police also alleged that the suspects allowed the company to ship the wheat by a private ship against a 2000 directive issued by the Office of the Prime Minister that ordered shipments of wheat to be made via Ethiopian registered vessels to save on foreign currency. This cost the government an additional 4.7 million dollars, according to the allegation.

The suspects are also accused of causing a market shortage in the country by purposely delaying the procurement process.

Under the third case filed against Ataklti Teka, former head of the then Ethiopian Water Works Construction Enterprise, and nine former and current employees, the allegations involve the illegal procurement of different machinery and equipment for Omo-Kuraz, Rib, Kesem Irrigation and Gidabo dams and the Modjo Dry Port.

The fourth case involves Shimelis G. Silasse and five other executives of the former Ethiopian Water Works Construction Enterprise. They are suspected of conducting similar illegal procurements without following proper bidding processes and allowing medical machinery procured to sit idle over five years.

Haile Selassie Bihon, former director general of the Pharmaceuticals Fund & Supply Agency and six other individuals are suspected of illegally procuring medicine valued at 9.5 billion Br over three years in violation of procurement directives and the law.

Police requested an additional 14 days to continue their investigation against the suspects before charging them. Police cited evidence gathering to include audit reports, collecting further documentary evidence, gathering witness testimonies, translations of foreign language documents, examining electronic evidence, investigating other potential suspects and verification of documents as requiring more time for investigation.

Police also requested that the Court deny bail to the suspects, stating that they may destroy documentary evidence and threaten witnesses if released on bail.

The suspects, some of them represented by lawyers, appealed to the court to reject the request of the police, stating that the investigators had enough time in the three months since the case began. Some of the suspects also claim that they are suspected of crimes allegedly committed after they left the institutions.

Lack of details and specificity in the accusations were the other claims made by the suspects in their bid to deny the request for further detention, they and asked the judges to order investigators to introduce clearer accusations.

After hearing both sides, the panel of three judges - Christian Baylegne, Lemma Tuji and Genanaw Assefa - denied the bail rights of the suspects and adjourned the case to May 2, 2019.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 20,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 990]

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