Was MetEC involved in illegal arms trade?

Ethiopia’s Metal & Engineering Corporation (MetEC) has been the subject of an investigation into allegation of corrupt conduct and embezzlement of public funds. Another report alludes it might also have been engaged in an illicit arms trade, in a blatant breach of international law.

MetEC-operated vessel, Abay flying an Ethiopian flag, has made seven routes from the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran to Port of Berbera, from Berbera to India’s Port of Mundra, from Mundra to Dubai’s Port of Khalid, from Khalid to Iran’s Bandar Abbas, from Bandar Abbas to Berbera, from Berbera to India, then to Doha Qatar, carrying unknown goods, most of the areas subject to stringent of sanctions, the state-controlled Fana Broadcasting Corporate documentary aired last night revealed.

Colonel Getu Tayu, head of METEC’s maritime affairs and one of the persons interviewed for the documentary, said that a shadowy company based in Pakistan was managing the vessel and Ethiopian military officers were assigned to overseeing the ship. “Looking at the routes, it was crystal clear the ship was used for contraband commerce and covert lines of supply,” Getu, said.

In addition to that, the revenue amounting to $ 543, 750 was supposed to enter into MetEC’s coffer but that amount remain untraceable, he said.

Getu’s version of events is supported by Suleiman Dedefo Weshe, the former Ethiopian Ambassador to Djibouti, another official interviewed for the documentary who implicated MetEC in secret involvement in an illegal transport of arms using two ships that it bought from the Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise (ESLSE).

The ships, named ‘Abay Wonz’ and ‘Abyot’ were sold and transferred to METEC in 2012 to be scrapped for a source of parts and reuse, following a viability assessment that took into account their life cycle cost, which was more than 28 years. At the time another foreign company, Global Marketing Systems offered 3,300,000 dollars to buy the ships but the idea was dropped on grounds that the offer was low; METEC was chosen to demolish the ships and use them for raw materials, it was revealed in the documentary.




However, METEC had its own plan, deciding to return the two vessels to service, claiming they could still be in service for at least five more years on condition of providing additional repair and maintenance. The vessels were kept anchored in the Port of Djibouti for more than six months, costing the Ethiopian government more than 1 million dollar bill in port fees, generator fuel, services and employee salaries, Ambassador Suleiman said.

On February 2016 Suleiman wrote a letter to the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tedros Adhanom to bring the matter into attention but it fell on deaf ears, according to the documentary. The Ambassador said the vessels had moved to a port near Dubai for repair six months later, using a licence from the Ethiopian government. Though the licence was granted only for repair purpose, but METEC used it to do commercial activities unscrupulously.  He said he heard repeatedly that the vessels were involved in shady or illicit activities. “This was a crime. First thing, the vessels were not legal as they were not seaworthy by the standards International Maritime law,” he said. “Then engaging in transportation of arms and ammunition, in violation of the arms embargo would put the country in red line,” he said.

The documentary, “Minabawi” dives deep into the activities of MetEC to expose the corruption, waste and a pattern of unethical and illegal conduct in advance of the trial of around 30 MeTEC officials who were arrested on allegations of corruption over the weekend.

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Source:Ethiopia Observer