Ethiopia’s customs chief arrested as corruption crackdown continues

4 mins read

Mohammed Awad Posted date: May 14, 2013

Minister Fenti arrested in Ethiopia on corruption charges.
Minister Fenti arrested in Ethiopia on corruption charges.

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s customs chief was arrested on Monday as the government and police move toward cracking down on corruption in the country. A spokesman for Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn confirmed to that the Revenue and Customs Authority head Melaku Fanta and his deputy Gebrewahid Woldegiorgis were detained as an investigation into their corruption continues.

“This is not the end of the story,” the official said. “The Ethiopian government is cracking down on corruption most heavily.”

Hailemariam, who came to power following the death of long-time leader Meles Zenawi in August, told the ruling party in March to intensify the fight against graft.

Africa’s second-most populous nation lost $3.3bn in illicit outflows in 2009, according to Global Financial Integrity. Transparency International ranked Ethiopia 113 out 176 countries on its corruption index last year.

The crackdown may have occurred after tax regulations were seen to be increasingly “flouted” since Meles’s death, Solomon Ayele Dersso, an analyst at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, said.

The authorities are determined to tackle corruption, which is “entrenched” in Ethiopia, Getachew said. “It doesn’t matter how high your office is, you can’t avoid responsibility,” he said.

Speaking with a number of government officials on Sunday following a private cabinet session, they told that the road to Ethiopia’s economic boom is through ending corruption in the East African country. Their session and comments come after a top minister was arrested over corruption charges along with 11 others involved.

“We have to look forward and in order to do so we, as a country, must be willing to acknowledge our mistakes and start to end this corrupt nature that is part of government,” one spokesman in the Prime Minister’s office told “Ethiopia must be a leader on clean government that will be a standard for all of Africa.”

Businesses in the region regularly complain of corruption as an obstacle to their work. Transparency International ranked Ethiopia 113 out of 176 nations worldwide in its 2012 perception of corruption index, where No. 1 is considered least corrupt.

That ranking puts Ethiopia above most nations in the Horn of Africa and east Africa regions, although Rwanda is ranked 50.

Melaku, a senior ruling party member and director general of the revenue and customs authority with the rank of minister, was arrested on Friday alongside two other officials from the authority, government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said.

“They were under investigation on suspicion of corrupt practices,” Shimeles told Reuters, without giving details.

The spokesman later told that “we will not back down in the face of corruption no matter who is involved.”

The move is the highest profile arrest of any official in the country on corruption charges and has activists praising the government’s efforts to curtail illegal activity within the government sphere.

“We are long void of a proper justice system and policing, so hopefully this will help make things better and progress the country toward goals set,” Monique Mariam told For her, as a former consultant for the government, “corruption was widespread and dangerously high, so this is a great move to start to end it.”

Melaku is the most high profile suspect to be arrested on corruption charges since Siye Abraha, a former defense minister who was released in 2007 after six years behind bars. However, he was already out of government when arrested.



  1. The solution to fight corruption is not to fight act but the root. As we all knows during amara era for the last 89 plus years corruption was acceded norm, the matter of fact when the Amhara king stolen oromos land to reward and enrich the Amhara tribes in the expenses of oromos the Amhara elites praised their amar king. When the amara king Menilike blackmailed the tigrians speaking people of the north and secretly signed a pact with Italy to allow half of tigraye today known as Eritrea to divided to be colonized, in order to weaken the domestic political influence of the northerner a in order to secure political monopolization of the Amharas. Such corruption was accepted.

  2. Wait a minute!
    This sounds very suspicious.
    If these people they can stop corruption by arresting the people that will enforce the tax laws, it is madness.
    They have to start arresting the same people that are responsible for the illicit outflows of monies , and that should start with Azeb Mesfin and Co, and all the previous high government officials (Seyoum , Berhane, etc..). These are the same people who conveniently retired from government to live a posh life outside Ethiopia. Mr Hailemariam, start detaining these same people , and we’ll believe that you mean business. Otherwise, it’s a sham, as usual!

  3. by no means I’m saying Ato Melaku is innocent as far as my conern if TPLF want to put him 20 ft. deep under the ground and buried him alive let them do it, i have no sympathy for ppl like him. my question/problem is corruption is/was not started by a little fish like egoistic Melaku, why don’t the see thier surrounding from top to bottom, go ahead and ask each Addis residence and they will tell you who is who and tell you why each make that much money. we all know each TPLF thugs suck that country as if there is no tomorrow, we all know that most of them don’t even have highschool diploma but they own a multimillion dollar house/property. Take the fake illiterate generals/TPLF members “including Melese wife” they all are rich… how did they come up in such a short time all this wealth? who’s money they exporting outside that poor nation to the weastern bank? how di dthey afford paying thier kids tuition in the western countries? how many billion dollars they received from international donors,and how much money goes to TPLF thugs pocket and how mnay of them go to the people of Ethiopia? this people walk to Addis with barefoor, filthy cloths, and empty brain but look where they are now…. sothe whole corruption is a myth….

  4. Police seized millions of dollars and millions of birrs in cash from the private residence of Gebrewahid Woldegiorgis.

    The courts are not specifying the correct amount of cash that was seized because they are corrupt and want to steal some of it.

    The courts are corrupted through bribes , political manipulation, intimidation and domination.

    Gebrewahid is the latest fall-guy in the ongoing power struggle inside the ruling junta. He is no more corrupt than any of the other acting or retired TPLF officials who have been sucking the life blood of Ethiopia during the past 20 years.

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