Court allows prosecutors to charge suspects with fraudulent attempt to withdraw more than $6 million from UA bank account

Cleric Belay Mekonnen, the main suspect, and two others face criminal and corruption charges. Photo: screenshot

Addis Ababa – The Federal Trial Court, Arada Division in the capital Addis Ababa has given federal prosecutors the green light to pursue criminal charges against cleric Belay Mekonnen and two other people suspected of being involved in a failed fraudulent attempt to withdraw more of 6 million dollars from the African Union (AU) bank account at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), located within the AU headquarters in the capital.

On Wednesday, the AU issued an official statement admitting to a fraudulent attempt that failed due to “the vigilance and quick action of CBE staff and our finance department.”

On April 15, “…a series of payment transfer orders were submitted to the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, at its branch located at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. The Payment Transfer Orders were sent by a person who is not an employee of the African Union. These orders allocated substantial funds to various recipients under the premise of construction and water drilling works, worth more than 6 million US dollars,” the AU said.

Investigative police during a hearing charged the main suspect, cleric Belay Mekonnen, deputy director general of the Patriarchate of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOTC), and two other people, Yared Fisseha and Dhaba Genana, with alleged involvement in a “criminal act.” coordinated and organized.” celebrated on April 24. The court gave the police eight more days to arrest and investigate the suspects and adjourned the hearing until today.

Consequently, the Federal Police announced at today’s hearing that the investigations were concluded and the files were transferred to the federal prosecutors of the Directorate of Corruption Affairs of the Ministry of Justice, who confirmed having received the files and asked the court for a period of time. 15 days to start the process. formal criminal procedure against the accused.

Furthermore, prosecutors informed the court that since the alleged crime was using false documents to defraud the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, the indictment charges may include a case of corruption. If convicted, the suspects could face up to 10 years in prison, according to prosecutors.

Defense lawyers objected to the additional 15 days given to prosecutors to file charges, arguing that police had already conducted an investigation. In addition, they also objected to the 10 years in prison estimated by prosecutors as long as there are no formal charges.

Defense lawyers also objected to the possibility of initiating corruption proceedings as inappropriate, since the fraudulent document was submitted to the bank account of a foreign company that cannot be dealt with under the country’s anti-corruption proclamation. The second and third suspects were kept in custody without facing any accusation of involvement in the case. But prosecutors insisted the two suspects were complicit in the alleged crime.

After considering the arguments of both sides, the court rejected the defense team’s bail request and granted the 15 days requested by prosecutors to file charges and for the suspects to remain in custody. AS