Five individuals, two of whom hold managerial positions at Addis Broadcasting Company (ABC), a private company involved in media business, were brought before Arada Criminal Bench last Friday May 29, 2009, after intelligence officers of the Revenue and Customs Authority (RCuA) arrested them, last Wednesday, sources disclosed.
The individuals include Amelework Tadesse, shareholder, board member and current general manger, who had only been at this post for 15 days, and Melescachew Ameha, shareholder and editor-in-chief of Addis Zena newspaper, an Amharic weekly which was published by ABC from 2002 until its closure during the May 2005, elections. They are accused bringing digital radio broadcasting equipments to the country for the purpose establishing a radio station, without declaring the equipments.
The equipment was imported from Norway during the first year of the company’s establishment at a cost of three million Birr, including 700,000 Br for initialization completed by Norwegian experts.
Violating duty free privileges the authority gave to investors as an incentive is another count on which the individuals are charged.
“We are still undertaking investigation,” Solomon Gebreab, acting director for Intelligence, Investigation and Risk Taking Work Process, told Fortune, not wanting to comment further.
The company also imported printing machineries; wave printing machines, from Germany with a loan from Dashen Bank, to establish a printing press. The printing machine were, however, imported duty free with an investment license, according to a knowledgeable source.
The company had to allegedly sell the machines for the printing press when it could not properly service its debt to the bank, as it struggled to get started with its printing press, the source said.
“That is when the Customs intelligence officers caught the individuals in the company’s management; while negotiating with buyers,” the source told Fortune.
Addis Broadcasting first planned to start a radio station in 2000. They started Addis Zena two years latter while still waiting for a broadcasting license from the Ethiopia Broadcasting Authority. The authority was then headed by Bereket Simon, currently head of the Government Communication Affairs Office with Ministerial portfolio.
The newspaper, sold to Fasil Yenealem, a journalist who was jailed with 17 other journalists in the aftermath of the 2005 elections and who is now in exile, was published up until that time.
After they sold the newspaper they continued to wait to receive a broadcast license while they watched other stations become licensed. Since they never were able to obtain one, ABC was forced to disband its employees. Over 60 employees were trained to operate the digital radio broadcasting machines in South Africa and Europe, according to ABC’s management.
The company formed by 32 shareholders, including Brehane Mewa, former president of the Ethiopian and Addis Abeba chambers of Commerce and Sectoral Associations, Brehanu Nega (PhD), leader of the opposition in exile – Ginbot 7 Movement – and Melescachew, who jointly have the lion’s share with almost 60pc share of the almost three million Birr initial capital.
Konjit Fekade (PhD), Shimeles Tekletsadik (PhD), Abebe Worke, a lawyer, Alemayehu Fantu, owner of Fantu Supermarket, and Daniel Nega, brother of Brehanu, are the current board members.
The court has adjourned the case for June 12, 2009.
- By HILINA ALEMU | Addis Fortune
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