8th Criminal Bench orders defendants to answer charges filed by ERCA

The Federal High Court 8th Criminal Bench ordered the defendants of A and G Global Trade and Construction PLC et al to defend the charges filed by the prosecutor of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA). The prosecutor filed charges in court against the defendants in February 2011, with several defendants included in more than one charge. The defendants include business companies, business individuals, tax officials and transit companies.
The first defendant, A and G Global Trade and Construction PLC was accused of importing 1.2 million tons of cement from Djibouti duty free using illegally prepared declarations and then transferring it to a third party. According to the charge, A and G Global Trade and Construction PLC utilized the duty-free privileges of another company registered in Djibouti which has a similar name and had been permitted by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) to import cement to be utilized by the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction (MoUDC) (according to the agreement signed between the company and MoUDC) for housing projects in the country.
A and G Global Trade and Logistic Company FZCO is a Djiboutian company that isn’t registered in Ethiopia but has been awarded duty-free privileges by MoFED for importing cement.
The second defendant, Mohammed Hussein aged 41, is the representative of the foreign company, but is also the General Manager of the first defendant, A and G Global Trade and Construction PLC.  Mohammed was supposed to transfer 1,196,414 bags of cement imported duty free from Djibouti to the Addis Ababa Housing Development Project office, but instead handed over 959,232 bags to a third party.
His illegal actions caused the ERCA to lose 21,602,608 birr in customs due to the Authority.
The 3rd defendant Aynalem Million, Deputy General Manager of A and G Global Trade and Construction PLC, and the 4th defendant Abdulrashid Abdulkadir, the founder and shareholder of the same company, were both  accused of collaborating with the 1st and the 2nd defendants, in addition to ordering company employees to transfer or sell the cement to a third party.  The 5th defendant, Universal Logistic Service PLC and the 6th defendant Tsigebirhan Tessera, the General Manager of Universal Logistic Service PLC, plus the 7th defendant Mesfin Abebe were together accused of preparing illegal declarations, attaching the documents and submitting them to the ERCA.
The 8th defendant EMTA, a customs transitor company, and the 9th defendant, Abraham Tesfaye, the General Manager of the company, are also accused of submitting false declarations to the ERCA. The 10th defendant Shemzal PLC, the 11th defendant, Gebregziabher Ambaye, who is the Genaral Manager of Shemzal PLC, and the 12th defendant Haile Assefa, the owner of Haile Assefa Transport Company, are all accused of collaborating with the 1st and 2nd defendants in transporting the cement and transferring it illegally to a third party instead of to the proper authorities, on different occasions.
Yidnekachew Geremew, Sintayehu Hailemariam and Asmelash Woldemariam who are the 13th, 14th and 15th defendants, respectively, are accused of approving the illegal declarations to transport the cement and transfer it to a third party instead of the Addis Ababa Housing Project Office. The charge filed by Prosecutor Tadele Tesfaye of the ERCA, indicated that the 15th defendant, who was head of the Customs Process and Procedures of the Lagar Customs branch, was in addition accused of ignoring the instruction sent from the ERCA HQ in the form a letter to ban the import of cement due to the fact that there were reports that the cement wasn’t reaching the correct destination. During the trial held on August 9 2013, the court dismissed the charges against Gebregziabher Ambaye, Haile Assefa and his company Haile Assefa Transport Company, because of a lack of compelling evidence after hearing witnesses and analyzing documents for the last two and a half years. The ERCA had filed charges against Gebreigziabher for not paying 16 million birr in taxes for 133 million birr in revenues earned from 2002 to 2009, and for not paying 20.4 million birr in Value Added Tax for the same period.
The prosecutor attached 46 documents and provided 38 witnesses for the charges. The charges of Yidnekachew Geremew, Sintayew Hailemariyam and Asmelash Woldemariam were heard by the court in their absence.
Judge Nuredin Kedir set the hearing for November and December 2013.