Mega Amphitheater former manager court ordeal ends

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The Federal First Instance Court 10th criminal bench ruled on January 9 that Equbay Berhe, former general manager of Mega Amphitheater be released on a two-year suspended jail sentence and a fine of 50,000 birr.   Mega Amphitheater, the establishment he was heading, was also fined 125,000 birr.
Equbay together with Mega Amphitheater were accused by the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (Agency) prosecutor on three charges pertaining to concealing income tax amounting to nearly 40,000 birr that should have been paid to the state, misrepresenting and giving false account of the income tax and failure to pay a Value Added Tax (VAT) amounting to more than 500,000 birr.  Equbay had been contesting the charges since he was first accused two and half years ago and released on a 300,000 birr bail. He was apprehended again in December. 
Equbay could have faced a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment and 50,000 birr fine, but his defense provided 19 mitigating reasons to reduce his punishment, out of which the court accepted six. 
The six mitigating circumstances the court accepted was Equbay’s prior clean criminal record, his minor role in the commission of the crime, his role as a family man, ailments he suffers with his lung, his long service in various areas for his country and his current activities.
The court ruled a 4 years and 5 months sentence, but under the law that gives the option of a suspended sentence for convictions of under 5 years, Equbay was released on a  two-years probation during which time he will be forced to serve the whole period if found having committed any other crime.  
Equbay told Capital that he’s happy and surprised that he’s free, considering that he had been sentenced guilty in all three charges brought against him, which he maintains are all unfair.
He also said the first two charges relating to the concealment of 40,000 birr worth of income tax, span on a period of several years, which could be made inadvertently in such a big organization, and also that all the three charges should have been considered as a negligent act as it is the auditors who are the main actors in this regard and as such have the highest responsibility.
“I’ve been in and out of the court house for the last two and half years, and I was banned from travelling abroad during this period,” Equbay said. He adding that since he is free now he plans to continue on his works at Da’amat Multimedia Production, a company involved in film, music, theatre, performing arts, audiovisual and publishing industry, which he formed with his brothers since he left Mega four years back.
Equbay who has been involved in the arts world for the last 20 years is also the president of the Ethiopian Audiovisual Association.