How to combat business crimes in Ethiopia
BY ANDUALEM SISAY GESSESSE – Weekend Reading – Ethiopia is one of the countries where you find millionaires emerging out of the blue. I remember a few years ago in one continental conference held in Dakar, Senegal, an African expert saying most of the mushrooming buildings in Addis Ababa are built by farmers.
I as a business journalist who has been working for close to two decades in Ethiopia, I knew that expert was misinformed and has no clue about what he is talking about. But at the time I didn’t dare to correct that expert.
I am sure he was misled by the then politicians in Ethiopia who were directly associated and co-owners of these buildings in Addis Ababa. Of course, agriculture especially irrigated fruits and vegetable farms have been making many youngsters rich in Ethiopia. But the buildings in Addis Ababa as he said are not owned by these emerging young farmers.
The majority of the buildings and businesses in Addis Ababa are owned by people engaged in illegal businesses rather organized criminals including contraband traders who have no tax history at all.
The truth is the majority about 60 percent or more of the building in Addis Ababa are owned by individuals associated directly with the TPLF including army generals.
One of these army generals is the current TPLF army leader General Tsadkan Gebretesae who out of the blue made millions of dollars establishing and selling Raya Brewery.
During the TPLF era (1991 to April 2018) army generals and commanders used to import all kinds of goods using military trucks and dump in the central market in Addis Ababa – Mercato. No one dares questions these individuals if they pay taxes on these imported goods.
It is safe to keep quit like I kept quit at that conference when that African misled expert misleads the world on that continental conference.
These army generals and their affiliates (cover business operators) not only make millions of dollars with such illegal businesses, but also made thousands of legally operating traders out of business in Mercato area and other parts of Addis Ababa.
From electronics to fast moving consumers goods TPLF people and their undercover business affiliates have flooded the market with untaxed smuggled goods.
Even though people were quit about these business crimes during the TPLF looting and state capture era, today anyone in Mercato is happy to tell these facts and their grievances publicly.
So, “Please diversify your sources of information before making comments about Ethiopia,” is my message to experts from abroad who thinks they know what is happening in Ethiopia including those who lived for decades or born in the country. Of course if you don’t have special mission and business interests in the cases of Ethiopia and east African countries like Martin Plaut’s team and his associates. Ethiopia is mystery even for Ethiopians let alone for foreigners. That is why it is the only country the Western colonizers are unable to colonize even though they tried several times.
My message to Ethiopian government on how to make these criminal business people pay the taxes they have dodged so far is launch audit on their properties and investments.
I think leaving the burden of proof on these individuals and companies can easily help the Government of Ethiopia collect the stolen money from the country. More than ever today Ethiopia needs to fill its budget deficits by mobilizing domestic resources.
And this is far more than domestic resource mobilization. It is about restoring law and order in the country. It is about making sure that all humans beings and legal businesses in Ethiopia are treated equally.
It is also about giving warning and lesson to potential future business criminals be it domestic or diaspora or multinational businesses.
It is as simple as checking the tax history of these buildings, factories and hotel owners to show their tax history for the past five or ten years or so.
I don’t see any justification why a civil servant pays monthly taxes from the small salary he/she earns, while such gangs will be allowed to escape with their business crimes.
What makes even worse the crimes of these business owners is the fact that currently they are buying hard currencies from black-market to finance terrorist groups such as, TPLF and OLF-Shene as well as all sort of ethnic based liberation movements in Ethiopia to destabilize the country. This is exactly what TPLF army generals like, General Tsadkan Gebretensae and General Migbe Haile, General Abebe Teklehaimanot, etc are now doing at the moment.
By the way these business criminals who own over 60 percent of the buildings, hotels and factories in Addis Ababa are not limited to those from Tigray ethnic group. They are also from different tribes of Ethiopia and affiliated with TPLF strong men and women.
They share the profits from these illegal businesses, while some of these stunts serve as front business owners for TPLF officials and their family members, etc.
It like those living abroad engaged in managing billions of dollars stolen from Ethiopia by these criminals’ business and individuals. In fact, these individuals are not only non-Tigray Ethiopians but also foreigners such as Martin Plaut and the like, who also are engaged in orchestrating different kinds of dramas abroad such as ‘Tigray genocide’.
Back to the topic at hand, I recently got the chance to look into the list of companies engaged in export and import. Most of these companies are in fact owned by the people associated with TPLF officials or their family members or associates who partner with these criminal gangs, who captured the state from 1991 until April 2018.
I think it is high time for Ethiopia’s tax authorities and intelligence to investigate and see tax track records of all these big businesses.
Some of them have used illegally rather robbed Ethiopian tax payers’ money from the state banks mainly Development Bank of Ethiopia, Commercial bank of Ethiopia, and the former Construction bank, which in fact was bankrupted by these corrupt TPLF people and their affiliates and taken over by CBE a few years ago.
In fact, the reason they want to capture Addis Ababa is to take over their buildings and business from their representatives who have been running the businesses on their behalf. Some of them want to return to Addis to complete the buildings they started constructing with the stolen money.
I heard recently that some 25 businesses and buildings owned by these criminal gangs are being taken over by government agencies while others are under investigation. I think it is time to say #No more to these criminals and their illegal businesses. #NoMore!