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The Eighth Criminal Bench of the Lideta Federal High Court passed its final verdict against Ayat S.C and its founders on Thursday May 23, ordering to pay over 90 million birr and 10 to 12 years of imprisonment.
The company and its three administrative staff were charged by the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) in 23 accounts, three years ago. The defendants were found guilty on 21 charges out of the 23 litigations. The charges filed against Ayat S.C include violation of banking and monetary legislations, evasion of Value Added Tax, Income Tax and Customs proclamations.
Eventually, the Lideta High Court ruled that Ayat S.C should pay 86,495,726 birr penalty and Ayalew Tesema, CEO and Chairperson of the board of Ayat, pays 3,235,543 birr. The latter is also subject to 12 years of imprisonment without parole. Mahari Mekonnen (Dr.), Investment Director of Ayat, is sentenced to 12 years without parole and penalized 435,646 birr. The third defendant, Getachew Agonafir, Finance Head of Ayat, is sentenced to 10 years without parole and a fine of 411,969 birr.
Furthermore, the company was found guilty of being involved in illegal banking service among others. The court therefore ruled that 86,495,726 birr should be confiscated. About 15 properties – seven vehicles and eight construction machineries – that Ayat had imported duty-free are subject to confiscation, as per the High Court’s ruling.
Meanwhile, ERCA’s prosecutors had in April, 2013 requested the Eighth Criminal Bench to pass a three billion birr fine against Ayat SC and a 79 years jail term for the founder and CEO of the company, with a 2.7 million birr fine.
The defendants presented several mitigating circumstances. They argued that Ayalew, who is 70 years old has been undergoing medical treatments for over 15 years, and he is the bread winner for a family of 15. His contribution in pioneering distance education and his role to the advancement of real estate development in the country were also among the mitigating circumstances his lawyers presented.
Eshetu Woldesemayat, former Chief Attorney General of ERCA now under custody along with 54 other officials and business people for alleged grand corruption crime and misconduct, was the main prosecutor in Ayat S.C and its founder’s case.
Established in 1996, Ayat SC owns Ayat Real Estate and a number of other companies in hotel, construction and agriculture sectors.