Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Getu Gelete owner of the Getu Commercial Centre Charged in Absentia

Getu Gelete, major shareholder of Get-As International Plc – a durable goods importing conglomerate – became an additional entrant to a group of big-name businessmen that the government has charged with high-level corruption.

The businessman was one of the 31 defendants named today in an indictment file that the Fe
deral Ethics & Anti Corruption Commission (FEACC) submitted to the 15th criminal bench at the Federal High Court, on Chad Street, in Lideta area. The charges, however, were read in court in the absence of Getu who has not yet been placed under arrest. After establishing his absence, the Commission asked judges to pass an order to the police to take Getu under custody. Getu, however, travelled abroad over a month ago, Fortune learnt from sources. Family members and colleagues could not be reached to disclose his specific whereabouts, although people close to his family claim he is in the United States.

As a defendant in this corruption case, Getu joins the ranks of Ketema Kebede of K.K Plc, Nega G. Egziabhere of Netsa Trading Plc, Simachew Kebede of InterContinental Addis and Fikru Maru (MD) of Addis Cardiac Hospital. Unlike Getu, the rest of these businessmen have been under custody for nearly six months, as part of the Commission’s corruption crackdown on the tax sector that also saw the arrest of Melaku Fenta, former director general of the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA) and Gebrewahed W. Giorgis, his deputy at the time.

The prosecution team had asked the court for continuances to conduct additional investigations for nearly five months before finally filing eight indictment files over a month ago. However, as regular court was out of session for over a month, the charges were only read to the defendants today.

Getu, a prominent businessman who also owns Getu Commercial Centre – a mixed use tower located on Africa Avenue, is grouped with Ketema, Nega, and Gebreselassie H. Mariam of Comet Trading Plc, in the first indictment file, which the court read today. The file, which includes 26 charges of corruption against the 31 defendants, only includes one charge made directly against Getu. This charge accuses him of having personal affiliations with top tax officials, Melaku and Gebrewahed, who have allegedly allowed him to pass imported goods uninspected through customs and thus get undue benefits.

His company’s name is also indirectly mentioned in another charge made against two of Getu’s fellow defendants in the indictment file, Temesgen Gulal and Amogne Tagele, both of whom were senior officials at ERCA’s Adama Branch. The charge against these two states that they have let five to 10 cargo trucks full of edible oil imported by Get-As, to pass through uninspected on a daily basis five years ago.

Defendants in Getu’s file have yet to enter their plea as the whole day was spent reading out the charges from the 84-page long indictment file. Over the course of the coming weeks, all eight indictment files connected to this case will be heard. Getu is also mentioned in another one of these files which is expected to be heard in court tomorrow.