January 10, 2019 / 3:40 PM / 6 days ago

UPDATE 1-Ethiopia charges ex-head of military firm METEC with corruption

(Adds background, details)

ADDIS ABABA, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Ethiopia charged the former head of military-run industrial conglomerate METEC with corruption on Thursday, nearly two months after his arrest, as part of a nationwide crackdown on graft in the public sector.

Kinfe Dagnew was charged with four counts related to the procurement of tractors, said a judge at the Lideta High Court in Addis Ababa.

He is the most senior official to be charged after dozens from METEC and the security services were arrested since November over graft and rights abuses. After taking office last year, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vowed to clean up state-owned firms and the military, and cancelled many METEC contracts.

One of those contracts was for the supplying of turbines for the nearly $5 billion Grand Renaissance Dam.

Kinfe was arrested on the border with Sudan and Eritrea after a months-long investigation into METEC, which uncovered suspicious procurement practices involving more than $2 billion.

Kinfe said in court he was clear about the charges and his lawyers asked for time to file their statement of defence.

His co-defendants faced three further charges. The judges adjourned the case to January 25 to receive statements.

Kinfe was chief executive of METEC for eight years, but resigned from his position two weeks after Abiy took office. (Writing by Omar Mohammed; editing by Maggie Fick and Andrew Cawthorne)

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