Kinfe Dagnew (Maj. Gen), former head of the Metals & Engineering Corporation (MetEC), faced the first charge late last week along with seven co-defendants.
The prosecutors charged Kinfe and other defendants, some of whom are in private business while others are senior executives of MetEC, for allegedly procuring various tractors and spare parts valued at 6.5 billion Br for the Adama Agricultural Machinery Industry without following proper procurement procedures.
The defendants are accused of making the procurements with an alleged intent of gaining an undue advantage for themselves and others.
Four of the defendants are former high level officials of MetEC and industries operating under MetEC. Desse Zeleke (Col.), former general manager of Adama Agricultural Machinery Industry, Tena Kurunde (Ber. Gen), deputy CEO of MetEC and head of sales and marketing, Getnet Guduya (Col), deputy CEO of MetEC in charge of corporate marketing and supply, and Goitom Kebede (Col.), deputy CEO responsible for corporate new business, are the other defendants from MetEC.
Remedan Musa, Chernet Dana and Elleni Berhan are the business people included in the charge.
The 17-page charging document states that from 2011 to 2013 the MetEC officials awarded procurement contracts for tractors without following legal bidding procedures, and the three business persons are accused of negotiating the deals.
The procurement involved Chinese, Turkish, Polish and Serbian companies that supplied more than 10,000 tractors along with spare parts.
The case was argued in front of three judges at the 15th Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court’s Ledeta Division, and prosecutors stated that MetEC’s procurement directive had clear rules and requirements to be fulfilled for all non-bid procurements that were violated by the defendants.
The procurements were undertaken without any planning, market analysis and preparations of bid documents that outlined specifications and conditions of the purchases that resulted in great loss of public treasure, argued the prosecutors.
The prosecutors added that the accused procured unsuitable tractors for the Ethiopian climate. The machinery was damaged by mismanagement, improper storage and maintenance. The prosecutors stated that the accused acted contrary to the public interest, neglected their duties, abused their power and caused damage to public property.
The prosecutors presented a list of 24 witnesses, 22 evidentiary documents and 18 photographs.
The defendants requested that the court allow them time to prepare their statement of defence. Two of the accused asked to post bail, but the other three deferred their bail requests until after they submitted their statements of defence.
The court started trying the case in the absence of three defendants, Eleni, Goitom and Getnet, who are at large.
The judges denied all the bail requests, stating that if the charges warrant a penalty of 10 years or more, the law strictly prohibits the right of bail to the accused. The judges then adjourned the case to January 25, 2019, to hear the statements of defence and ordered the police to bring the missing defendants to court.
Kinfe was arrested on November 14, 2018, and is being held without bail. The Federal Police were granted the right of custody to continue their investigation.
He is the highest profile suspect of the 28 individuals arrested on allegations of grand corruption in the MetEC investigations.
Prosecutors filed separate corruption charges against 8 of the 28 MetEC officials along with Kinfe on Friday, January 11, 2019, and the case was postponed to Monday, January 14, 2019. The government prosecutors asked for additional time to prepare charges against the rest.
Also on Friday, Ermias Amelga, founder of Access Real Estate, was brought in front of the 10th Criminal Bench suspected of selling Imperial Hotel to MetEC for 72 million Br without a proper bidding process. Ermias was arrested by police on Wednesday evening and will reappear in the same court on Monday, January 14, 2019.
In a separate hearing to be held on the same Monday and in the same court, police’s prior request for additional time to investigate Esayas Dagnew, former chief operating officer of Ethio telecom and brother of Kinfe, will be adjudicated.
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