Kinfe Dagnew (Maj. Gen), Ermias Amelga, and Alem Fitsum

Kinfe Dagnew (Maj. Gen), former head of Metals & Engineering Corporation (MetEC) who has been charged with grand corruption, brought preliminary objections in defence of the charges leveled against him.

Kinfe, the founding CEO of the Corporation, has defended the three out of the four charges brought against him. Through his two lawyers Haftom Kesete and Zeresenay Mesegana, he filed his preliminary objections last Monday and Friday in the 15th Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court's Ledeta Division.

For the first charge, which involved alleged illegal procurement of two hotels and a plastics factory at a cost of 200 million Br, Kinfe's preliminary objection asserts that the charges of negligence and abuse of power in ordering the procurement are not interchangeable crimes and are entirely different from one another.

"The procurement can either be the result of abuse of power or negligence," reads Kinfe's preliminary objection. "The prosecutors' allegations joining the two crimes are not legitimate."

Under this filing, Alem Fitsum, managing director of Alem Genet Steel Factory, and Ermias Amelga, founder of Access Real Estate, were charged for selling Riveria Hotel, a PVC factory and Imperial Hotel to the Corporation at exaggerated values. Alem and Ermias also submitted their preliminary objections to the court.

Through his lawyers, Alem stated that prosecutors could not accuse him criminally along with MetEC. Instead, he could face civil liability and be subjected to pay compensation if found guilty.

Ermias's lawyers also argued that selling one’s own property does not constitute a crime. His lawyers also asserted that Ermias sold the hotel to the Corporation at a market price and the charge is not acceptable in the context of a free market economy. They further asserted that the price of the hotel has now appreciated to 300 million Br.

Under the second charge, Kinfe is accused along with 13 other co-defendants for allegedly causing 544.7 million Br in losses to public funds resulting from the procurement and mismanagement of two shipping vessels. Last Monday, Kinfe submitted his preliminary objection based on two grounds and stating that the charge lacks clarity.

"The prosecutors' charge claims that Knife ordered the procurement with intent to gain undue advantage," reads the preliminary objection, "but they have failed to show the materialisation of the advantage that was allegedly pursued."

Kinfe's lawyers also argued that the charge should have been clear and show what benefit the defendant accrued, the monetary value of the benefit they received and whether or not such benefits were received at all.

They also claim that four of the seven counts under this filing should have been merged into two, since they constituted the same actions that resulted in the same effects. Because the prosecutors made the distinction of creating a misleading image of a larger crime, according to their telling, they appealed for the charges to be amended.

Under the third case, Kinfe is charged along with seven other co-defendants, for ordering the procurement of tractors and spare parts valued at 5.4 billion Br for the Adama Agricultural Machinery Industry without following proper procurement procedures.

The lawyers submitted their objection late last Friday, asserting the charge brought by the prosecutors lacks clarity and prevents Kinfe from defending himself.  The objection also says that the prosecutors filed the charge under a wrong provision of the law.

After receiving the objections from defendants, the judges adjourned the three cases to February 7, 2019, to receive the responses of prosecutors on the preliminary objections.

Kinfe will be also be submitting his preliminary objection on February 12, 2019, for the fourth charge leveled against him. In the fourth case, he is charged with seven co-defendants of awarding fake Masters and Doctorate degrees to MetEC officials. The charge further alleges the defendants wasted 73.6 million Br in pursuit of the allegedly fake degrees.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 02,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 979]

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