‘Formal charges against suspects expected in next court hearing’
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has appointed Beker Shale to lead the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) whose heavy-weight officials were detained in the past few weeks on suspicion of involvement in corruption. Beker Shale was holding the post of Mayor of Adama city until his new appointment. The new Director General of ERCA, who is not new for ERCA for having worked at the Authority for eight months in 2011/12, had also been appointed to several high level positions in the Oromia Regional state, before serving under the federal government.
About five years ago, Beker served as head of the Oromia Police Commission for two years before he joined the Oromia Cooperative Agency, which mainly engages in the activities of farmers’ cooperatives. He later joined the federal government in 2011 as the deputy director for Change and Modernization at ERCA. After serving for eight months, Beker was posted to the Government Communication Affairs Office as state minister with portfolio. The last assignment of the newly-appointed Director General was as Mayor of Adama, a city which saw five new mayors appointed in two years. Beker administered Adama since December 2012. .
Beker is also an executive committee member of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO).
Since the incarceration of ERCA officials that includes Melaku Fenta, the long-serving director general of ERCA, Gebrewahid Woldegiorgis, deputy director of ERCA and head of Law Enforcement and Eshetu Woldesemayat, Chief Prosecutor of ERCA a few weeks ago, their positions were filled temporarily by two deputy directors of the Authority. Kaidaki Gezahegn, Deputy Director of Operation Design and Development, Abraham Nigussie, Deputy Director of Change and Modernization were provisionally assigned to lead the Authority.
Efrem Mekonnen, Public Relations Head of ERCA, told Capital that no one has been appointed to the position of deputy director of ERCA yet. According to the procedure, it is the responsibility of the Director General to recommend and submit his choice for a deputy to be approved by the government.
The new head appointed in the wake of the grand corruption crackdown on officials of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) and prominent business people has his work cut out for him in managing the Authority which lost many experienced personnel.
In a related development, prosecutors of the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEAC) are expected to formally press charges on Thursday, June 13, on the suspects imprisoned.
As the number of arrested for alleged corruption is growing, two new suspects have been detained in the past week, raising the number to 60. This number is expected to increase as the Commission is investigating new files indicting more people in the coming days.
The Second Criminal Bench of the Lideta Federal High Court, in a proceeding held on Monday June 3, heard the charges of the two new suspects. Misale Woldeselassie, ERCA Information and Technology Department head, and Nigussie Kibret, Internal Tax Audit Director, who appeared before the court, suspected to be involved in a web of grand corruption.
Investigators of FEAC said that these two suspects are involved in aiding business people evade tax and abetting other higher officials of the Authority in defying the rules and regulations of ERCA for personal benefit. The investigators requested the court to grant them 14 days for further investigation, for which the court granted 10 days, and adjourned for June 13.
In the case of Dawit Ethiopia et.al., the court also ordered the investigators to conclude their investigations and formally press charges by June 17.