Men allegedly collude to smuggle 500mg of cocaine into Ethiopia at Bole International Airport
The Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) charged three individuals with smuggling 500 mg of cocaine into Ethiopia at the Lideta Federal First Instance Court, 10th Criminal Bench, on Friday, June 4, 2011.
The cocaine was confiscated by the ERCA at its Bole International Airport Branch on Sunday, May 29, 2011.
Hagos Kidane, an employee of the ERCA; Getachew Akani, an importer; and Melkamu Lemma, an employee of Ethiopian Airlines (ET); allegedly conspired to smuggle the substance, hidden inside 406 capsules.
The cocaine was allegedly brought into the country from Mumbai, India, by Getachew, who made contact with Hagos upon his arrival through Melkamu, a daily labourer pushing passengers’ luggage.
Hagos, a higher officer in the technology and intelligence directorate of the tax authority, allegedly arrived at the security checkpoint, claiming Getachew is his relative. He met Getachew and took his luggage in an attempt to avoid it being screened.
The officer on duty argued with Hagos to let the luggage be x-rayed, while Getachew tried to distract the officer on duty by requesting a foreign currency exchange, the charge read. While Getachew was arguing with the officer about the money exchange, Hagos allegedly left the airport with the luggage containing the drugs.
He made it off the airport compound before he was arrested and the cocaine confiscated, along with 66 capsules of another substance which has been sent to the Drug Administration & Control Authority (DACA) for testing.
Getachew absconded but was located by the police the following day while trying to board a flight to Dire Dawa.
All three were charged as principal criminals based on the Criminal Code in the Arada Giorgis First Instance Court during the pre-trial hearing on Monday May 30, 2011. The police were granted an additional 14 days to investigate the case, while the defendants were detained at the ERCA’s La Gare Detention Centre.
However, charges were filed at the Federal First Instance Court by Awgechew Kibret, public prosecutor for the ERCA, on Friday, June 3.
Hagos is charged with abusing his power in trying to mislead the search department through his familiarity with his colleagues.
Getachew is charged with masterminding the operation and importing the illegal substance. Melkamu is charged with collaborating by introducing the other two defendants to facilitate the offence.
All of the defendants requested bail bonds. Hagos was granted a bond of 25,000 Br while Melkamu was granted a bond of 10,000 Br.
The request for bail was not contested by the public prosecutor. However, the request by Getachew was contested by Awgechew, who argued the defendant may not appear at the next hearings if he was granted bail.
The judge has also ruled for the defendants to be transferred to the Addis Abeba Prison Centre.
If found guilty, the defendants could face between seven years and 15 years of imprisonment for drug trafficking, according the Customs Proclamation.
If the 66 capsules sent for verification are found to be legal medicine, the defendants would be subjected to tax and custom duties.
The case was adjourned to Monday, June 6, 2011, for the judge’s ruling on Getachew’s bond and the defendants to respond to the charges brought against them.