Kebede Tesera Hits Wall at Court, Again


Kebede was convicted of 25 years of imprisonment for usury, tax evasion, false evidence, and money laundering




The Federal Supreme Court Criminal Appellate Bench rejected a local businessman, Kebede Tesera’s appeal to reopen his case battle with the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA) over a reduction of sentence.

The Supreme Court stated that the law does not have a specific time limit on when a file can be re-opened once it has been closed. But from the understanding of the procedural laws, Kebede’s appeal comes nine-months after the file closed, hence the time that has passed is too long.

Kebede is one of the 92 prisoners that received a pardon from President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) last year. This though was overturned after prosecutors at the Authority argued that he cannot be pardoned given the nature of his alleged offences.

The case began eight years ago, when Kebede, 76, was sentenced by the High Court to 20 years in prison for usury, which is lending at high interest rates, tax evasion, giving false evidence, and money laundering.

Kebede took his case to the Supreme Court thereafter, which backfired. The higher court dropped the charge of illegal banking but increased the terms of his alleged sentences that were upheld. He was sentenced to a quarter of a century of imprisonment.

Following the amendment of the tax proclamation last year, Kebede made an appeal to the Federal High Court Eighth Criminal Bench which directed the case to be overseen by the Supreme Court. He sought the Appellate Court there to review the sentence brought against him within the stipulations of the new proclamation, under which he would have to serve 14 years less.

Before any ruling was given though, Kebede received a pardon in July of last year in a letter written and signed by president Mulatu. However, only nine days later the prosecutors requested clarification from the Pardon Board chaired by Getachew Ambaye, who had been the Federal Attorney General until mid last week, on the reason behind his pardon.

The pardon was reversed, with the Board believing that there are not enough grounds for pardon given his alleged offences. With a pardon, not an option anymore, Kebede resumed the process of trying to get his sentence reduced based on the specification of the amended tax law.

But despite the Supreme Court’s statement that there is no specific period of limitation on when a case may be reopened. The judges there decided that nine months have elapsed within which period Kebede could have brought his case, and rejected the appeal.

Simeneh Kiros, a criminal law expert with over two decades of experience, begs to differ with the Court’s recent decision.

“The law allows offenders to reopen their case as long as the law that is amended benefits them. Such cases being about freedom. No limitation of period has been put on them by law,” Simeneh says. “The principle of legality is to guarantee the power of the law, not to punish individuals. Thus, neither prosecutors nor defendants are exposed to bias – a principle our courts seem to forget.”

Kebede, aside from his prison sentence, was also subjected to a 300,000 Br fine. The government confiscated 3.7 million Br from him on the grounds that it was generated through usury. A nine-storey building of his, located at Arat Kilo right next to Tourist Hotel, was also confiscated, which was later auctioned off for 680 million Br.

One of Kebede’s lawyers, refrained from giving any comment, stating that they did not receive the copy of the final judgement.



By BETHLEHEM BAHRAN
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER

Published on Apr 22,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 939]


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