About 63 senior officials of Ethiopia’s Metals and Engineering Corporation (MeTEC) and key intelligence officers were arrested over the weekend on charges of corruption and human-rights abuses, according to Ethiopia’s attorney general. “Twenty-seven officials have been arrested for alleged corrupt practices, while 36 have been detained for alleged human rights abuses, with a manhunt underway for remaining suspects,” Berhanu Tsegaye, said at a news conference on Monday.
MeTEC, among other things, was accused of delaying and mismanaging the construction of the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). A vital component of the electro mechanical project executed by MeTEC had been seriously delayed, even though advanced and unaccounted payments were made, the newly appointed executive director of Ethiopian Electric Power, Abraham Belay said last September.
Berhanu said that a five-month long investigation into procurement processes at METEC has revealed vast corruption and METEC officials were involved in purchases of $2 billion worth of goods without any bidding process. METEC purchased five airplanes without any formal bid. While four of the planes are with the corporation but one was made to station in Sudan to avoid tax and it is still in the hands of a private individual who has a link with Metec officials, he said.
METEC purchased two ships from Ethiopian Shipping Lines at a reduced price under the pretext of using to transport heavy metals. It renovated the ships and used to transport weapons and other contraband between Mogadishu and Iran and other areas illegally. The profit has been used for personal use of certain individuals, Berhanu added.
The attorney general said that the investigations had also uncovered serious abuses by security services. He outlined some of the allegations of abuse committed at seven secret prisons in the capital Addis Ababa and elsewhere. “There are people that have been blinded after being held in darkness for long periods of time. Others have been left infertile because of blows to genitals. There are some that had limbs broken. Women have been subjected to gang rape, and men to sodomy, some to prolonged exposure to extreme heat and cold, waterboarding,” Berhanu told reporters.