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Commission continues its crackdown

The Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEAC) distributed a circular for all banks operating in the country to freeze the accounts of about 120 individuals in relation to the recent crackdown on Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) officials and prominent business people. This move is expected to increase the number of suspects that will be hunted down by the Commission in the coming days. Sources told Capital that the list includes family members of the detained officials and businesspeople.
The number of suspects arrested on alleged involvement of corruption rose to 54 this past week. The Second Criminal Bench of the Lideta Federal High Court kept busy in the past week, hearing cases of the newly arrested suspects and their lawyers’ claim about their condition.
Two weeks ago, FEAC detained several ERCA officials including its Director General, Melaku Fenta, Deputy Director Gebrewahid Woldegiorgis, and Chief Prosecutor of the authority, Eshetu Woldesemayat, on allegation of corruption related crimes and cases that hinges with illegal banking, contraband goods and other customs related offences. 
Heads of Adama and Mile branches of ERCA and other business people joined the detainees immediately at the prison facility located around Piassa area commonly known as ‘Maekelawi’. A week later, on May 20 and 21 another batch of 15 suspects with three different files appeared before court.
Under Ambawseged Abraha et. al. file Yadessa Midekssa, Head of Adama Branch, Tekleab Zereabrook, Head of Mile Branch, Ambawseged Abraha, Law Enforcement Head of High Tax Payers Branch, Eshetu Giref, Law Enforcement Head of Mile Branch, Getahun Tuji, Customers Service Head of Adama Branch, Melaku Girma, Inspector at Mojo Dry Port, Asfaw Seyoum, Customs coordinator of Dire Dawa Lagar Customs, Getaneh Gedey, from Akaki-Kaliti Warehouse Division of ERCA,  Yosef Adawi official of ERCA,  Begziaber Alebel, manager and major shareholder of Ultimate Plan, and  Zeleke Leyew, owner of Bemcha Transit, appeared before the Court on Monday afternoon.
Police alleged that the eleven ERCA employees in collaboration with other illegal private actors not only facilitated the import of goods without proper customs procedures but also interfered and dissolved charges made against illegal actors among other misconducts.
The Court granted 14 days period for further investigation based on the request of the Police.
Another Court file listed under Melkamu Enderyas et. al. was heard on Tuesday May 21. Melkamu Enderyas, employee of Adama Branch, Almaz Kebede, head of Wow Transit and Dawit Mekonnen and Degu Kobito both brokers are suspected of illegally importing goods and cooperating to transport contraband goods to and from the country. For this case the Court granted police ten more days for further investigation.
Under Temesgen Seyoum et. al. court file, Temesgen Seyoum Law Enforcement Head of Akaki Kaliti Customs Branch, Getachew Temesgen, Branches Coordinator at ERCA, Benyam Lema, Officer at Mojo Dry Port, Sineshaw Alemnew, employee at Mojo Dry Port, Derege Merga, Customers Complaint Officer at Mojo Dry Port, Seyoum Leykun and Hailemariam Assefa both transit agents appeared before court early this week and the court ordered the Police to complete its investigation and charge the suspects by May 27.
Mamo Abdi, Tax and Customs Affairs Adviser to the Director of ERCA, Dawit Ethiopia, director of Risk Management Directorate of ERCA, Kone Mihiretu, Fitsum Gebremedhin, Mamo Kiros, Asheber Tessema and Alelegn Tesfaye, all businessmen, who appeared on Friday May 17 have appeared again on Monday May 20 with two more suspects that did not appear at the Friday May 17th hearing.
Other suspects held on alleged involvement in the country’s grand corruption and fraud case will also appear before court tomorrow May 27. Suspects under Melaku Fenta et. al. case, includes ERCA officials Eshetu Woldesemayat, Chief Prosecutor, Markneh Alemayehu, prosecutor, and Asmelash Woldemariam, head of the Kaliti customs branch. Private investors whose cases were heard under the filing include Ketema Kebede, owner of KK Trading Plc, Semachew Kebede, owner of Intercontinental Addis Hotel and Fikru Maru (MD), initiator and head of Addis Cardiac Hospital PLC, will appear to defend their rights to be released on bail.
The other case also to be heard tomorrow, May 27th is that filed against Gebrewahid Woldegiorgis et. al. that include Haimanot Tesfaye (Col.), Gebrewahid’s spouse, Nigisti Tesfaye, sister of Haimanot, Habtom Gebremedhin, son of Nigisti, Belachew Beyene, Tiruneh Berta, Tesfaye Abebe, Nega Gebregziabher, Mule Gashaw, Amogne Aweke, Mehiretab Abraha and Tewolde Bisrat, all business people.
The third hearing for Monday will be Semere Nigussie, Zerihun Zewde, Marshet Tesfaye, Muluken Tesfaye and Dagne Seneshaw’s case, filed under Mohammed Issa et al, most of whom are from the Adama (Nazret) customs branch.
In the past week lawyers’ of the detainees claimed that their clients were not treated fairly and their civil rights were violated by the Police. The lawyers voiced their concern saying that the detainees were unable to meet not only with them but also with family members following the complaint the court ordered representative of the prison facility (Maekelawi) to appear and explain the situation on Friday May 17. A week ago the police officer that represents Maekelawi appeared before court to clarify the problems claimed by the lawyers. The Court then ordered the detention facility and the commission to respect the detainees’ basic human rights. Despite the Court’s order the lawyers once again complained to the court that their clients’ basic human rights are still being violated by the detention center. 
The court once again strictly ordered the FEAC to make sure that the detainees’ rights are respected by the police. 
Meanwhile, the watchdog Commission reported that it is receiving vital information about the alleged crimes from whistleblowers, since the arrests. The Commission also announced that it further studied the situation, gathered additional information, and coordinated its efforts with the National Intelligence and Security Service in arresting the suspects and bringing them before court.
According to the Commission statement, the revenues and customs sector has been one of the priority areas of the Commission. “The Commission identified it as a strategically important area since 2010. Therefore, extra efforts have been exerted to root out corruption in this sector and those efforts bore fruits in gathering vital information regarding corruption offences in it,” the statement the Commission released this past week explained.