Ethiopia’s customs chief arrested as corruption crackdown continues

Mohammed Awad Posted date: May 14, 2013

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 Bikyanews.com 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 Bikyanews.com 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 Bikyanews.com. “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 Bikyanews.com 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 Bikyanews.com. 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.

BN

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