Prisoner of conscience- Ermyas Amelga

Ermias Amelga _ PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ermias Amelga /Addis Fortune

January 2, 2019

STILL IN PRISON ONE YEAR AFTER BEING ARRESTED AND
DENIED BAIL DESPITE ANY EVIDENCE OF COMMITTING A CRIME

-Background

On January 9, 2019, Federal investigators have arrested Ermyas Amelga, Diaspora returnee and former investment banker, founder of Access Real Estate, Zemen Bank, in connection with an ongoing corruption probe on the former executive of Metals & Engineering Corporation (METEC). Ermyas was arrested on suspicion of transferring the former Imperial Hotel to METEC for 72 million Br, without a proper procurement process. Ermyas appeared before the 10th Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court on Friday, January 11, along with other senior executives of METEC.

-Arrest
on False Grounds and Misleading Charges

The facts indicate that Ermyas arrest
itself was made on inaccurate premises. 
Charges against him claim that government has suffered a loss of 20
million birr (again ignoring accurate purchase and sales price and VAT
charges). Also ignoring fact that due to escalating real estate prices, the
current value of Imperial Hotel is now estimated to be over 300 million birr.

In response to the charge that he brought a
hotel for 60 million birr and sold it for 72 million birr, resulting in a 20
million birr loss to government, Ermyas has said in court, that there is always this consistent omission of the
sales figure breakdown
by police/prosecutors
to exaggerate the sales price and strengthen the case against him
. The
difference in sales price is due to VAT
and interest payments, for which there is evidence.

Ermyas explained in court, as CEO of Access
Real Estate (ARE), he  sold Imperial
Hotel, previously purchased from Asfaw
Tefera’s family
, for 60 million
birr (47 million cash and 13 million to
cover existing hotel debt
)  to METEC, in 2013, for 61.2 million birr (net of VAT). There was also a payment plan
included to be implemented over an 18 month period. After including 2.5 million
birr in bank interest payments, there is
actually a loss of 1.2 million birr to ARE/Ermyas on the sale
. Again actual
sales price to METEC was 61.2 million, and
then 10.8 million was added for VAT
, bringing the total sales price to
METEC to 72 million birr.

-Ermyas’s
Lawyer’s Response

(i) The
charges made against Ermyas are under criminal legislation codes 111 and 112
but they don’t provide the evidence for these charges. There is no reference to
the time and place where the alleged crimes took place. There is also no
explanation how the alleged crimes directly or indirectly took place took place
as required by criminal code 32 (1);

(i) – Ethiopia operates a free market
economy. What is the barometer that the Attorney General is using when he is
charging Ermyas with selling the hotel at an exorbitant price? One can’t be
charged with corruption for selling a property at a higher price than was
purchased. The sale was taken in an open and transparent manner. Before the property was fully transferred
to ARE, METEC stepped in and
purchased
it directly from the original owner representative
. This means that Ermyas, representing ARE, was removed from this
transaction.

(iii) – Knowing that the final sale was
between METEC and the original property owner, Asfaw Terefe, the Attorney
General should not try and make Ermyas
legally accountable for this transaction
and cannot cite him as guilty for any crime under legislation they have cited.

(iv) – Since it is not a crime to sell property registered under ones name/company’s name and the Attorney General’s office has no evidence to support the charges they
have made, the court should dismiss the
charges they made and release Ermyas
.

-Denial
of Bail

Ermyas’s lawyer has appealed to the Supreme
Court for bail rights, only to be told, that the District Attorney A may link the case to possible corruption activities
so bail can’t be allowed.

How is it that one of the METEC officials
originally part of the group, charges  is
quietly acquitted while defendants like, Ermyas, simple business man, arrested
without any evidence, cannot even be
allowed  bail rights?

UPDATE ON ERMYAS’S CASE

-Regression
of the Judicial Process

On December 27, 2019. Ermyas and lawyer
appeared in court, nearly a year after being in jail. The court, in July had
asked for almost 3 months to deliberate and provided a verdict on Tikemt (October)
20. Since then they asked for two extensions, on December 27, when they had
promised to make a final decision, AGAIN they asked for a month extension, with
a list of reports that they needed.

Some
of the data relates to, again, the building assessment of Imperial Hotel-
(assessment was provided 5-6 months ago). The judges had almost 5 months to
raise these questions, why at the time of verdict is this being asked?
 It was clear that this information was missing when witness cross
examination (in Ermyas case, mostly property valuation experts) was taking
place back in July.

In addition, a lot of the additional data
they are requesting does not even relate
to Ermyas’s case. Given the strategy to annex him to the 10 METEC officials- he
will again be dragged along with them…
These actions demonstrate a deliberate
strategy to drag out the judicial process ensuring Ermyas gets dragged on with
the lawsuits against the 10 other defendants.

QUESTIONS
THAT NEED AN URGENT RESPONSE

-Why is a simple hotel sale (Actually
resulting in a net loss to Access Real Estate) treated as a crime on par with charges leveled at high level
METEC officials accused of billion dollar corruption activities, without any
evidence?

-Why
is Ermyas Amelga still kept in jail, denied bail, one year later, WITH THESE
VAGUE, UNSUBSTANTIATED CHARGES?

-Is
there a strategy to keep him in jail while the other 10 cases are being
processed?

-What
is behind this continuing miss-carriage of justice- in this era of democratic
reform?

IS UPHOLDING HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM
NOT PART OF ETHIOPIA CURRENT REFORM PROGRAM?

JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED!

  THIS CASE REPRESENTS A RED FLAG FOR POTENTIAL
INVESTORS DIASPORA OR OTHERWISE:

PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!

WE DEMAND THE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF ERMYAS AMELGA

THIS STATEMENT IS PREPARED BY SUPPORTERS OF ERMYAS AMELGA



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