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Court Grants Bail to Three Defendants in Corruption Probe

Addis Fortune /Addis Ababa

Three people in the first indictment file read at the Federal High Court on Monday, October 21, which includes 31 people and 26 counts, were granted bail today in the high-profile corruption case launched by the Federal Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC).

Semere Negussie, the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority’s (ERCA) Adama Branch container inspection official at Modjo Dry Port & Terminal, Mareshet Tesfaye from M.D. Freight-Forwarding, and Dawit Mekonnen, a self-employed broker, can now post 15,000 Br and be released from custody.

The defendants’ lawyers argued that the crime they were charged with will not get them a sentencing of more than 10 years, which qualifies them for bail. The Commission’s prosecutors did not put up any objections and the court accepted the request.

The same arguments were also forwarded by lawyers of Zeleke Leyew, manager of Temcha Freight-Forwarders Plc, Degu Abicho, a driver at the Ethiopian Air Force, Shito Negash, stepmother of Amogne Tagele, ERCA’s Adama Branch head, and Gebreselassie H. Mariam, shareholder in Comet Trading Plc. However, these arguments did not hold water for the court, which accepted the Commission’s argument that these defendants were indeed charged for crimes that could possibly get them a sentencing of more than 10 years if convicted.

The lawyers for the rest of the defendants, including Melaku Fenta, former director general of ERCA, and Gebrewahed, his then deputy, did not make requests for bail.

Instead, they complained that the prosecution’s evidence was not submitted along with the charges, which fails to observe criminal law. Any arguments should take place after the prosecution forwards the evidence, they argued.

The court accepted this argument and adjourned the case until next week, Tuesday, October 29, while also ordering the Commission to submit evidence by then. Defendants who are not granted release or bail will remain in prison until then.

The charges on Meheretab Abraha and the company where he is a shareholder, MFAM Trading, were also read out in court this morning. The file includes five counts. MFAM is charged with failing to declare 3.5 million Br in taxes, and later failing to pay this tax when ordered by ERCA. Meheretab, who was manager of the company during this time, also has two counts for not taking action when the company failed to declare and later pay taxes. Another charge is also levied on him, this time for attempting to avoid the unpaid tax as legal.

Meheretab’s lawyer has argued that he has complaints on the criminal code articles his client was charged with, which the judges asked he file in writing. The case will be heard after this complaint is filed.

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