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AS Investigates: A decade ago Ethiopian diplomats siphoned $640,000 from maids in Lebanon to pay off a US based lobby firm. What happened next?



(Proper) Ambassador Tekleab Kebede at an occasion associated to the Addis Abeba Diaspora Mall venture in 2016, and (Left) Ambassador Nega Tsegaye, at his workplace within the Ministry of International Affairs. Layers of paperwork obtained by Addis Normal implicate each males as being immediately concerned within the controversial cash switch 11 years in the past. Ambassador Tekleab is retired from diplomacy and runs a enterprise in Addis Abeba, whereas Ambassador Nega is presently on the Ministry of International Affairs

This report contains interviews with each Ambassadors

By Zecharias Zelalem @ZekuZelalem

Addis Abeba, Might 23, 2020 – Paperwork handed to Addis Normal by a whistleblower in late 2019 and our investigations that adopted revealed that funds belonging to the Ethiopian expat neighborhood in Lebanon have been misappropriated by the Ethiopian authorities and secretly used to pay $600,000 US value of charges owed to an American foyer agency in 2019.

The contentious cash switch was carried out in April of 2009 through Ethiopia’s consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and was deposited right into a again account belonging to Washington DC based mostly authorized entity, DLA Piper, greatest recognized for its PR and lobbying works within the 2000s for the Ethiopian authorities. DLA Piper’s identify turned a family identify amongst Ethiopians for having efficiently satisfied American lawmakers to quash a invoice condemning Ethiopia’s human rights document again in 2007.

However the whistleblower’s paperwork, whose authenticity Addis Normal confirmed after months of investigations, reveal that not all the cash utilized by the Ethiopian authorities officers to pay for DLA Piper’s companies, belonged to the Ethiopian authorities. Additionally they reveal that a lot of authorities representatives, together with ambassadors to a minimum of two nations, and International Ministry workers, have been properly conscious of this. 

Among the many paperwork obtained are letters and receipts confirming the cash switch and filed away as a part of an audit carried out by the Ethiopian consulate in Jeddah in 2015. The fee to DLA Piper utilizing $600,000 in misappropriated neighborhood donations, was overseen by former Ethiopian consul common in Saudi Arabia, Tekleab Kebede Aregawi, and former International Ministry finance division staffer and Ambassador to France, Nega Tsegaye.

The letter contains info for DLA Piper’s account at a department of the M&T Financial institution. It’s signed by a then International Ministry finance division official, Nega Tsegaye. He went on to grow to be Ethiopia’s ambassador to France and Spain. A profession diplomat, Ambassador Nega is again in Addis Abeba, presently working because the Director Common for the International Ministry’s Public Diplomacy Communications workplace.

The cash was the whole thing of a fund devoted to the pursuits of Ethiopian home employees languishing in Lebanon. The sum was gathered by means of fundraisers at neighborhood occasions, in addition to personal donations by members of the neighborhood and non secular organizations over the course of a decade. When scores of Ethiopians fled Lebanon’s 2006 political instability and navy battle, the cash was transferred from Beirut to Jeddah, entrusted with Ambassador Tekleab Kebede to safeguard it till Lebanon had stabilized and the neighborhood may very well be rebuilt.

However the cash was by no means returned, the Saudi based mostly Ethiopian consulate hasn’t made any point out of it and inquiries by members of the neighborhood in Lebanon have gone unanswered. Ethiopians in Lebanon have been conscious that the cash was transferred to Jeddah however weren’t ever notified or consulted about what occurred to it subsequent. Plans to make use of it for charitable causes associated to migrant employees went up in smoke.

Migrant employees in Lebanon aren’t protected by that nation’s labor regulation. Below the institutionalized “kafala” system, Ethiopian home employees are underpaid, typically mistreated or murdered by their employers. Overwhelmed with the variety of Ethiopian ladies hospitalized after leaping off the balconies of high-rise buildings to flee abusive Lebanese employers, neighborhood leaders opened the account with the objective of soliciting public assist to pay their medical charges. The cash was additionally designated for overlaying prices associated to the delivering of our bodies of deceased maids to their households in Ethiopia for burial.

It was beginning in 2005 that cash belonging to the Ethiopian neighborhood and Ethiopian consulate in Beirut started to be transferred to the Ethiopian consulate in Jeddah. The neighborhood was made conscious of the choice previous to the switch of property to financial institution accounts belonging to the consulate in Jeddah. The then consul common in Jeddah, Ambassador Tekleab, was to return all property as soon as Lebanon’s political turmoil and Israel’s bombing marketing campaign of Lebanon have been over. Whereas it’s unclear how a lot cash belonging to the Ethiopian consulate was transferred, cash originating from the neighborhood’s home employee fund totaled 640,000$.

However the neighborhood has by no means recovered its cash. Regardless of the consulate in Beirut hiring new workers and Ethiopians returning to Lebanon in massive numbers, the Jeddah consulate has neither returned the cash, nor has it publicly acknowledged that it even had it. Neighborhood members, who sought to make use of the cash to construct on earlier efforts to help employee abuse victims, hounded the Ethiopian authorities for solutions as to what had occurred to their property transferred to Saudi Arabia. One neighborhood chief went so far as visiting the International Ministry’s headquarters in Addis Abeba to acquire solutions. Her efforts bore no fruit and the diplomats concerned within the ruse remained mum. The collective silence aided in overlaying up all traces of the next switch of those funds to DLA Piper in the USA. The recordsdata leaked to Addis Normal present solutions for many who spent the final decade questioning what occurred to the cash.

Along with uncovering the names of
those that funneled over half 1,000,000 American {dollars} in donations to an
American regulation agency, Addis Normal has recognized a number of different public officers,
who have been uninvolved however later realized of the cope with DLA Piper after
investigating on their very own. These officers additionally performed their half in guaranteeing
no one could be held accountable for the 2009 embezzlement by sustaining their
silence and refraining from notifying the general public.

Amongst them, Ethiopia’s former consul common to Lebanon, Ambassador Halima Mohamed. Ambassador Halima was properly conscious that the majority of the neighborhood in Lebanon is fashioned by ladies who in 2009, earned as little as 100$ month-to-month, toiling seven days per week in Lebanese properties.

Ambassador Halima Mohamed, former consul common in Beirut (Picture: Ethiopian consulate in Beirut)

Regardless of their low earnings, Ethiopians
rallied round the necessity to assist fellow nationals in misery, says Hiwot, who
will solely go by her first identify. Hiwot has lived in Lebanon for practically two
many years and was amongst those that donated to the fund. In line with her, the
disappearance of such a lot of cash and not using a hint, “dealt a blow to
the ethical,” of members of the Ethiopian neighborhood.

“It was unhappy, as a result of it took us a protracted
time to collect that a lot cash. Ethiopian officers in Jeddah find out about it,
I’m certain. No method can this a lot cash be misplaced. However no one has instructed us something.”

What occurred to over half 1,000,000 {dollars} a decade in the past is a dialogue subject typically introduced up in neighborhood circles. There are those that have resided in Lebanon for many years, a few of whom will nonetheless ruefully recount the varied initiatives deliberate for the good thing about the folks upon the gathering of the cash. The reality about precisely what occurred to 640,000$ belonging to the home employees of Lebanon has remained a intently guarded secret. Till now.

How the cash ended up in Saudi Arabia

Ethiopia’s consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Lebanon was rocked in February 2005 by the assassination of its former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in a automotive bombing that left 22 folks lifeless in Beirut. The assault was the set off for protests by outraged Lebanese who demanded and finally pressured the resignation of Hariri’s alternative, Prime Minister Omar Karami. Calls for by protesters centered across the ending of neighboring Syria’s three-decade outdated navy presence within the nation and the enacting democratic reforms. The demonstrations by hundreds of thousands introduced the nation to a halt very very similar to the Lebanese protests of 2019-20 did previous to the outbreak of covid-19 within the nation. However in 2005, they have been coupled by a wave of political and sectarian violence. Bombings and focused killings killed and wounded scores, together with migrant employees.

It was through the turbulence within the
aftermath of Hariri’s assassination that Ethiopians residing in Lebanon first
began leaving the nation. However a yr later, Lebanon’s issues have been
exacerbated. Tensions between Israel and armed entity Hezbollah boiled over
after the latter carried out an ambush in Israeli territory that killed eight
Israeli troopers. In retaliation, Israel introduced it could deploy its air
power to bomb Hezbollah targets in Lebanon. From July to August of 2006,
Israeli warplanes decreased numerous buildings throughout the nation to rubble and
killed over a thousand civilians. The devastation of the aerial marketing campaign
caused an exponential improve of Ethiopian migrants in search of to flee the
nation.

Ethiopia’s high diplomat on the time in
Beirut was Consul Common Adem Nurhussein Adem. Primarily based in Lebanon since 2004, he
was depicted in media
reviews right now as exasperated,
overstretched and having hassle coping with countless requests from Ethiopian
home employees determined to flee from Israeli bombing raids. “A lot of them
are illiterate,” he instructed the Baltimore Solar again in 2006. “Some don’t
know what a passport is, and most have run away from their sponsor, so they’re
unlawful.”

Hiwot remembers this era “prefer it was
yesterday.”

“The fortunate folks left the nation early. The Israelis bombed the airport and even roads in Beirut. So many Ethiopians packed buses headed to Syria, which was a secure vacation spot again then.”

Ethiopian consulate constructing in Beirut (Picture: Google Maps)

The Worldwide Group for
Migration (IOM) later helped fund the returns of Ethiopians stranded in
Lebanon. Ranging from 2005 and persevering with into the 2006 Israeli aerial bombing
marketing campaign interval, Consul Common Adem Nurhussein approved a number of emergency
transfers of property belonging to the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut, to financial institution
accounts in Jeddah.

In Lebanon, migrant based associations
aren’t permitted to legally register. There aren’t any formally acknowledged
Ethiopian citizen run organizations in Lebanon, apart from the Beirut based mostly
Ethiopian consulate. This difficult issues for the migrant run Ethiopian
neighborhood in Lebanon. Unable to open a checking account in its personal identify, the
neighborhood reached an settlement with the consulate to gather funds and place
them in a separate checking account below the consulate’s identify.

The neighborhood and consulate agreed that the cash could be accessible by the neighborhood management at any time and no quantity of neighborhood funds could be moved with out the neighborhood’s express permission. Meseret Workneh was among the many neighborhood appointed treasurers. She has since relocated again to Addis Abeba the place she was reached by Addis Normal.

“It was a chaotic time,” she begins.
“Our neighborhood had fallen aside, folks have been doing every part they might to
escape Lebanon.”

Meseret says that it was through the bombing marketing campaign that Consul Common Adem Nurhussein gathered the remaining consular workers and neighborhood leaders for an emergency assembly.

“He defined to us that even the long run
of the consulate in Beirut wasn’t safe,” Meseret remembers. “We might sooner or later
be capable to rebuild our neighborhood. Till we do, the funds from our checking account
could be transferred to an Ethiopian consulate in Saudi Arabia.”

Meseret tells Addis Normal that the consul common promised assembled representatives that when calm was restored, the neighborhood may request the return of their funds from the consulate in Jeddah. “I had my doubts. However what options may we offer? We have been in a war-zone and the worry was that the cash could be caught and even irretrievable in a Lebanese financial institution.”

In line with Meseret, a number of consulate
workers members had defected from their positions and there have been authentic
considerations that even the highest diplomat may do the identical.

Consul Common Adem Nurhussein did find yourself fleeing Lebanon someday in 2008, defecting from the federal government and beginning a brand new life in the USA. Previous to his defection, he got here off as annoyed in interviews with varied media shops. Swamped with circumstances of abuse, imprisonment and deaths of Ethiopians, he instructed a Lebanese journalist that his workplace was coping with 148 suspected suicides of Ethiopian nationals between 2007-08. “We obtain as many as 5 circumstances of abuse per day,” The Consul Common said. He additionally blamed Lebanese authorities for not doing extra to cease what he known as “modern-day slavery.” In feedback made to Spanish media outlet El Mundo, he once more lashed out. “My complaints don’t even attain high officers.”  He accused employment businesses of serving as “slave traffickers.”

From Jeddah to Baltimore

In 2010, Ethiopia appointed Asaminew Debele as its high diplomat in Lebanon. His appointment as Consul Common coincided with an upsurge of latest arrivals of Ethiopian residents within the nation. After the ample reviews of demise and harm of Ethiopian home employees, Addis Abeba had banned touring to Lebanon for employment in 2008, simply previous to Adem Nurhussein’s defection. The ban was the primary of a number of such makes an attempt at dissuading Ethiopian ladies from migrating to Lebanon, all of which have confirmed ineffective. The Ethiopian authorities did little to implement the ban, which led to elevated demand for the companies of human traffickers. These traffickers proceed to facilitate the journey of loads of Ethiopians to Lebanon, lots of whom have ended up lifeless and victims of horrific abuse.

Consul Common Asaminew Debele shortly
realized that the consulate had a catastrophe on its arms. Day by day reviews of
abuse, suicides, and ladies hospitalized after leaping from tall buildings in a
bid to flee their struggling, marked his tenure which led to 2012. In the present day,
retired, he made it clear to Addis Normal that he has no fond reminiscences
of his time in Beirut.

“I couldn’t sleep at night time. Each week
we had workers taking a look at lifeless our bodies of our residents within the morgue. On a regular basis our
telephone would ring, and ladies crying, would pour their hearts out to us and beg
us for assist. We couldn’t sustain,” the previous profession diplomat stated over the
telephone.

It’s unclear if the consulate did all it may in its capability to help its residents, because the establishment is usually slammed for its reluctance to become involved. It was throughout Asaminew Debele’s tenure as Consul Common that the extremely publicized incident caught on digicam of a home employee named Alem Dechassa being pulled by the hair, dragged, overwhelmed and shoved right into a car by Lebanese recruitment agent Ali Mahfouz, made headlines. She was later reported to have died by suicide. Ethiopians around the globe criticized the overall consul for his lack of ability to save lots of her life, particularly after it had emerged that the abuse caught on digicam occurred simply exterior the consulate.

However Asaminew states that he was by no means given the authority to satisfy his mandate. “I noticed quickly after my arrival there that I used to be merely a figurehead. The federal government has by no means allotted us the funds nor the sources to cope with issues of that magnitude.”

“The difficulty of Ethiopians in Lebanon was
by no means given the eye it wanted throughout my tenure. They have been utterly
helpless and uncared for.”

Ethiopian home employees who escape abuse are lodged on the neighborhood’s shelter right here in Beirut. Meals, sanitation and different wants are to at the present time, coated by the neighborhood and never the consulate (Picture: openDemocracy)

Clockwise ranging from high left, Agere Mandefrot, Desta Tafesse, Woinshet Aragie and Tigist Belay. All had traveled to Lebanon for work in 2019. None of them made it again to Ethiopia alive

The previous common consul says he labored
with the neighborhood and did what was in his energy to help his compatriots.
Together with, cooperating with efforts to recuperate the lacking 640,000$.

“I investigated and was capable of finding out
that after Adem despatched the cash to Jeddah, Ambassador Tekleab confirmed his
having obtained it,” Asaminew instructed Addis Normal. “However I’ve by no means
been given a straight reply for what occurred to the cash after that.”

“The cash belonged to the neighborhood. We
had so many our bodies within the morgue. This cash would have served to ship them
dwelling for burials by their households.”

The recordsdata obtained by Addis Normal don’t particularly identify Ambassador Tekleab Kebede. However in keeping with Asaminew, the speak across the Ethiopian diplomatic circles was that Tekleab used his workplace and his proximity to excessive rating officers to pursue enterprise dealings. “It’s an open secret,” is how he put it. “He was youthful than lots of his friends and but was allowed to retire with advantages earlier than most of them,” the previous consul common chuckled. “The person went from being a diplomat in Saudi Arabia, to immediately being nominated for some profitable enterprise place in Dubai. That doesn’t simply occur!”

Ambassador Tekleab Kebede’s tenure as consul common led to 2011. He was subsequently switched to a task in authorities selling Ethiopian enterprise pursuits. He was a part of a 9 man Ethiopian authorities delegation led by then deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in June 2011, who traveled to Riyadh to induce the Saudi authorities to pursue enterprise pursuits in Ethiopia. Quickly after, he was employed by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, and headed their Ethiopia workplace.

In 2016, Ambassador Tekleab was appointed the Chairman of the Board of Administrators for the “Ethio-Diaspora Grand Mall” venture and was tasked to supervise the development of a 2.6 billion birr mall in Addis Abeba with Ethiopian expatriates serving as shareholders. Native media reported extensively on it and Ethiopian embassies around the globe marketed the provision of shares. It’s unclear what occurred afterwards as development is but to start and the venture seems to have been deserted with no clarification given.

Ambassador Tekleab Kebede Aregawi with Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz in 2006 (Picture: Al Riyadh)

Ambassador Tekleab spent 15 years as consul common in Jeddah. Earlier than that, he was the consul common in Ottawa, Canada, and was a board director for the Canadian department of the Aid Society of Tigray, a company he served as a spokesman for over a decade.

The whistleblower who collected and finally handed over the recordsdata to Addis Normal claims he had a breif entry to a few of the Jeddah consulate’s recordsdata and isisted ther may very well be extra recordsdata revealing extra wrongdoing that should be investigated by the federal government. “I wished the entire reality to come back out. The general public deserves to know,” the whistleblower who prefers to stay nameless explains. “There have been rumors of corruption being carried out at embassies throughout the Center East for years. In the event that they have been totally searched, extra recordsdata revealing extra wrongdoing could be discovered.”

In line with famend Ethiopian rights activist and commentator Nebiyu Sirak, Ambassador Tekleab’s prolonged tenure as consul common in Saudi Arabia was fraught with allegations of corruption and nepotism enabled by his workplace.

Nebiyu Sirak, a very long time resident of the Kingdom and recognized for his written activism decrying the struggling of migrants in Saudi Arabia, penned a collection of articles for varied blogs detailing the woes of migrants within the nation. In line with Nebiyu, Ambassador Tekleab’s prolonged tenure in Saudi Arabia was fraught with allegations of corruption and nepotism enabled by his workplace. Nebiyu wrote extensively about a few of these allegations, together with that of a neighborhood initiative again in 2010, which noticed Ethiopian residents of Jeddah elevate cash to assist jailed migrants within the metropolis. The charitable effort’s management was disbanded by the ruling occasion members dispatched from the consulate, in keeping with Nebiyu, who wrote that cash raised disappeared into the coffers of the consulate.

“Corruption was rife throughout (Ambassador
Tekleab’s) tenure as consul common,” Nebiyu defined to Addis Normal.
“There are numerous incidents. Round 13 years in the past, there was the open
theft of round 100,000 SAR (round $26,588 US) that was raised for the
constructing of a monument in Ethiopia commemorating Ethiopian-Saudi ties. The
monument was by no means constructed and the cash by no means retrieved.”

It’s a damning allegation a few man who, throughout his time as consul common, tended to keep away from the media highlight. Ambassador Tekleab Kebede seems to have solely willingly courted interview requests when the agenda subject centered round Ethiopia’s enterprise pursuits. For example, he was recognized for his lobbying for Saudi businessmen to put money into Ethiopia’s fertile farmland primarily within the Gambella area. That endeavor largely failed and resulted within the Ethiopian authorities being accused of displacing indigenous folks.

In Ethiopia in the meantime, Ambassador
Tekleab is listed as a board member of the Parkinson’s Sufferers Assist
Group (PPSO) and runs a lot of companies, together with TKA Import and
Export. That firm is listed formally as an exporter of agricultural
merchandise, however on one other enterprise itemizing, the corporate can also be acknowledged as an
exporter of gold bars from Africa.

Reaching Ambassador Tekleab Kebede was a
job by itself. None of his companies contacted have been prepared to offer his
contact info. “He’d by no means give anybody his quantity,” Nebiyu Sirak
defined. “He doesn’t use social media and might be untraceable. He would use
a number of numbers to keep away from coping with the multitude of points going through
Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia.”

Nonetheless, a self declared shut
confidante finally gave Addis Normal a listing of telephone numbers stated
to belong to the previous diplomat. Ambassador Tekleab appeared startled at being
reached by telephone, however surprisingly remained on the road to deal with queries
linked to the controversial 2009 cash switch.

Ambassador Tekleab was the person in cost
of the Jeddah consulate each through the preliminary switch of funds from Beirut
to Jeddah and through the 2009 payout to DLA Piper. However when requested about such
dealings, he strongly denied realizing something about them. “What are you speaking
about?” was how he reacted.

“The embassies and consulates throughout the Center East typically switch cash from one workplace to a different,” Ambassador Tekleab stated. “However this switch from Lebanon to Saudi Arabi by no means occurred. And any speak of cash being despatched to the US is unfaithful.” When instructed that Addis Normal was in possession of a doc that advised in any other case, he simpy stated: “I’ve by no means heard of such a factor. It’s towards our working protocol.”

Nonetheless, Ambassador Tekleab was prepared to talk at size, a refreshing change contemplating that officers in Ethiopia usually dodge such inquiries. The longer he stays discussing the subject the extra his place started to steadily shift. He finally admitted that he was instructed a fellow diplomat in Lebanon had named him as being the recipient in Jeddah when the neighborhood’s cash was transferred there from Lebanon. He claimed he said at the moment that this couldn’t be true, however he was requested if he was insinuating that Consul Common Asaminew Debele had lied.

“I by no means stated that,” Ambassador Tekleab
now stated. “I stated I don’t bear in mind. I can say with the utmost certainty that no
cash was despatched to America. Cash could have been despatched from Beirut to Jeddah.
There was a working relationship between these two consulates. It’s widespread to
ship cash between places of work. However the half about cash being despatched to an American
agency is fake.”

Addis Normal: “So there could have been a switch from Beirut to Jeddah of $640,000 US.”

Ambassador Tekleab: “It’s potential. I can’t recall however it might have occurred. We switch massive quantities of cash and it’s unimaginable for me to recollect every switch. However I can say with the utmost confidence that no cash was despatched to the US. And any cash that was transferred was accomplished so with the authorization of my superiors in Addis Abeba.”

Addis Normal: “Is there the chance that somebody on the Jeddah consulate may need accomplished a switch to the US with out your data?”

Ambassador Tekleab: “No. That’s unimaginable. Every part goes by means of me. We have now a finance officer, however I used to be the one who needed to okay something coming out and in of Jeddah. Because of this I can inform you with certainty that your declare isn’t true.”

“Watch out for what you publish,” he warned. “What you’re claiming is a fabrication. You’ll bankrupt your occupation.”

However the paperwork in possession of Addis Normal recommend in any other case. The authenticated paperwork make it very clear that it was the cash from the neighborhood’s account that was delivered to the USA. And by Ambassador Tekleab’s personal admission, the 2009 switch to DLA Piper couldn’t have been made with out his data. So, whereas his identify isn’t on the doc, it’s nearly unimaginable to rule out his personal complicity. Nonetheless, there does seem like some reality about what he stated relating to the involvement of a superior.

Among the many recordsdata Addis Normal spent
months analyzing, a faxed doc from the International Ministry to the Jeddah
consulate. The letter despatched by a International Ministry official, requests the
switch of $600,000 US to a Baltimore checking account belonging to DLA Piper. The
letter, translated from Amharic reads roughly as follows:

Transaltion: “The agency named DLA Piper has given consultancy companies to embassies of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia in Washington DC, Brussels and London, as such for its companies we’re requesting that $600,000 USD from the emergency funds transferred from Beirut be despatched to the agency’s checking account, particulars are under, through swift financial institution switch.”

The letter contains info for DLA Piper’s account at a department of the M&T Financial institution. It’s signed off by a then International Ministry finance division official, Nega Tsegaye, who went on to grow to be Ethiopia’s ambassador to France and Spain. A profession diplomat, Ambassador Nega is now again in Addis Abeba, presently working because the Director Common for the International Ministry’s Public Diplomacy Communications workplace.

Not like Ambassador Tekleab, Ambassador Nega Tsegaye wasn’t open to discussing the matter. “I don’t know what you’re speaking about,” was his reply when reached on the telephone by Addis Normal. “You’re speaking a few matter from over a decade in the past. It isn’t match to be discussing such issues over the telephone.”

When requested if he was prepared to be despatched
an electronic mail additional clarifying the matter for a narrative, his tone turned aggressive.
“Go forward! Publish what you need. I’m within the workplace with somebody now. Sorry.”
The road went lifeless.

Not like Ambassador Tekleab, his identify and signature are very seen on the doc they usually level to his being a participant within the cash switch that has hoodwinked the general public.

DLA Piper

The lobbyist agency on the middle of the story is one with a controversial observe document. The Ethiopian authorities and DLA Piper’s crowning achievement could be the latter’s work in completely stonewalling congress from passing HR2003, or the Ethiopian Democracy and Accountability act of 2007. The invoice would have known as for a US condemnation of Ethiopia’s human rights scenario and would have ushered in sanctions, together with barring entry into the US of Ethiopian senior officers discovered chargeable for human rights violations. However DLA Piper staffers went into overdrive, recruiting the involvement of Republican lawmakers and circulating pamphlets which bought Ethiopia as an necessary ally within the conflict on terror. It labored. The human rights initiative was shelved, regardless of relentless efforts by some Ethiopian American activists.

In 2006, DLA Piper was paid a tidy $50,000 US month-to-month, solely from session and public lobbying for the Ethiopian authorities led by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Gary Klein, a DLA Piper spokesperson went on the Deutsche Welle’s Amharic language program and made the astonishing declare that Ethiopia had no political prisoners each previous to and after the election violence of 2005. Klein’s feedback provoked outrage amongst Ethiopians, who on a minimum of one event, protested exterior the regulation agency’s Washington DC workplace.

Gary Klein of American lobbyist agency DLA Piper, remembered amongst Ethiopians for telling an Ethiopian radio host that Ethiopia had no political prisoners previous or instantly after the controversial 2005 Ethiopian Elections (Picture: Bloomberg)

A poster with message denouncing DLA Piper’s working relationship with the Ethiopian authorities (Picture: Daniel Newhauser)

DLA Piper incurred the wrath of human rights activists and Ethiopian political opposition figures in addition to loads of unhealthy press. In April of 2009, doubtless because of the stress, DLA Piper introduced that it could be ending its work on behalf of what it known as the “democratically elected authorities of Ethiopia.” The corporate issued an announcement that was picked up and republished by a lot of Ethiopian shops, together with Opride.com. In its closing discover, the agency additionally talked about having “labored with the (authorities of Ethiopia) in London and Brussels in addition to Washington DC.”

The paperwork Addis Normal is
in possession of, present that DLA Piper’s payoff made with embezzled Lebanese
neighborhood funds, got here a few week after their public announcement. The
paperwork render it clear that the cash switch to DLA Piper was for work
accomplished with Ethiopian embassies in London, Brussels and Washington DC, making
them strikingly in keeping with the broadly publicized assertion issued by DLA
Piper cited above.

Cellphone calls made by Addis Normal to DLA Piper’s media spokesman Josh Epstein went unanswered, as did an electronic mail.

Banque Saudi Fransi receipt for a $600,000 US cash switch from the consulate in Jeddah to DLA Piper

A decade outdated dilemma for Ethiopians in Lebanon

For Ethiopians in Lebanon, the
disappearance of the cash was a reoccurring supply of frustration that will
boil over each time conferences between the consulate and members of the
neighborhood passed off. Hiwot remembers this properly and defined the supply of
continued rigidity.

“Women have been being overwhelmed and raped with
regularity in Lebanon,” Hiwot says. “The Ethiopian neighborhood opened a shelter
with its personal cash which we used to deal with victims. The consulate by no means helped
us cowl the prices and we struggled to take action.”

Hiwot says the cash may have made a
large distinction for the great Samaritans locally who have been pressured to
scrounge collectively no matter they needed to lease a small two room house which
could be used as a shelter. Calls for for the consulate to recuperate what
belonged to the neighborhood reached fever pitch because the consulate confirmed much less of a
willingness to analyze.

Meseret Workneh, who was one of many
treasurers appointed to take care of the neighborhood’s funds when the preliminary
switch to Beirut passed off, made it a private mission to get to the underside
of the affair.

“It made my blood boil as a result of home
employees who had jumped from 5 story buildings couldn’t afford the healthcare
wanted. Survivors with damaged legs typically left the hospital being supported
by mates as a result of some couldn’t afford the crutches.”

She believes that on account of her incessant
probing of the matter, she was focused by the Ethiopian authorities.

“First I misplaced my place within the
neighborhood management” Meseret remembers. “Then my residency papers expired
regardless of my submitting renewal paperwork to the consulate on time. As a result of I had
no residency papers, I used to be arrested by Lebanese police and spent two days in
jail. I’m certain somebody within the consulate withheld my renewal utility as a
punitive measure.”

Meseret says that in Asaminew
Debele’s tenure, the consulate in Beirut was way more receptive of requests to
examine the matter. “I can’t blame Asaminew. He regarded into it, however I’m
sure they threatened him to stay silent. He risked his pension simply by asking
round.”

In Might 2012, after the uproar attributable to
the tragic demise of Alem Dechassa two months earlier, the Ethiopian authorities
despatched a delegation from the International Ministry’s Girls’s Affairs workplace to satisfy
with Ethiopians in Lebanon to fend of allegations it uncared for its residents
there. Frehiwot Asrat, who later turned Head of Ethiopia’s Girls Affairs
Directorate Common, was amongst those that traveled to Beirut as a part of the
delegation.

Addis Normal obtained one other doc containing the minutes of the assembly between members of the neighborhood and the general public officers, produced by the neighborhood and signed by round-table individuals. It reveals that the assembly was chaotic to say the least. Members of the neighborhood slammed the consulate for its inaction. Others demanded justice for Alem Dechasa. Meseret Workneh, the neighborhood’s funds head on the time was accused of corruption through the assembly, on the similar time, the query of why her residency allow was purposely allowed to run out was additionally explored.

Amidst a number of accusations of corruption, the problem of the lacking neighborhood funds was additionally raised. “Beforehand, the neighborhood managed to boost a sum of US$640,000 earlier than it was despatched to Saudi Arabia. The place is that cash?”

A neighborhood consultant, maybe having misplaced hope in ever recovering the cash added, “if the cash remains to be there, we request that or not it’s donated to the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Rattling venture.”

Report on the Might 2012 roundtable discussions between authorities officers and members of the Ethiopian neighborhood in Lebanon

The doc reveals that there was a
lot of heated backwards and forwards between neighborhood representatives, consular workers
and residents. Frehiwot Asrat is portrayed as having tried to mediate
between feuding entities and the report doesn’t describe her as addressing any
particular claims.

Meseret Workneh, who confronted stress to cease asking in regards to the lacking cash and was jailed when she alleges consular workers allowed her documentation to run out, wouldn’t let up. Later that yr, she went to Addis Abeba and demanded an viewers with the International Minister’s finance division. However sadly for her, she was accommodated by none apart from Ambassador Nega Tsegaye. On the time, she wasn’t conscious that he was behind the cash’s disappearance.

“On the International Ministry, I instructed them
that we misplaced over half 1,000,000 {dollars} in donations,” Meseret Workneh
remembers. In line with her, the previous Ambassador to France was livid.

“He obtained offended. He instructed me that so as
to course of my request, I needed to convey him receipts for every donation. Receipts
for 640,000 {dollars} in donations! It was clear to me that he was unwilling to
look into it.”

When it turned clear that International Ministry personnel wouldn’t cooperate, Meseret says her pursuit of the cash ended. She believed it was futile from this level on. When instructed of the existence of a doc revealing that Ambassador Nega Tsegaye himself was behind the cash’s disappearance, Meseret expressed dismay. “It positively is smart now,” Meseret instructed Addis Normal. “Had I raised the problem with a second worker in that workplace, issues may need turned out otherwise.”

After his encounter with Meseret, the
livid former ambassador to Spain rang Consul Common Asaminew Debele up.

“He was offended. He stated, ‘why did you ship her to me?’ I attempted to elucidate that I didn’t, however he wouldn’t hear,” Asaminew recallecd the small print from eight years in the past. “He silenced Meseret and that was that.”

Institutional Silence

Because the years glided by and the plight of Ethiopian home employees in Lebanon noticed no let up in any respect, the appointment of latest diplomats would for some spell a brand new alternative to get issues proper in Lebanon. Ambassador Halima Mohamed, a profession diplomat and former ambassador to Italy was appointed as the brand new consul common. She was Oromia area’s Tradition and Sports activities bureau head within the nineties. Her being a girl, some believed, would maybe push her to take a larger curiosity than her predecessors. She remained in Beirut till 2017.

Ambassador Halima

Ambassador Halima is remembered for having extra resolve than the likes of Asaminew Debele. An activist within the Ethiopian neighborhood instructed Addis Normal that in contrast to her predecessors, Ambassador Halima made a honest effort to cope with the Lebanon difficulty. She even tried to resolve the thriller surrounding the lacking $640,000 US.

The whistleblower’s recordsdata seem to substantiate that assertion. Addis Normal is in possession of a faxed doc displaying what seems to be the response by the Ethiopian consulate in Jeddah to a request by its Beirut counterpart for full readability into what occurred to the cash.

Dated June 26th, 2016, the letter reveals that the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut, by that point run by Ambassador Halima Mohammed, did ask for solutions to what was within the eyes of Ethiopian residents in Lebanon, a chilly case. It had been 5 years since Ambassador Tekleab Kebede had left Jeddah. The letter was stamped with the official consulate seal and that of the brand new consulate common, Ambassador Wubshet Demissie.

“As per the letter written on June
ninth 2016, our mission has been requested to make clear what occurred to
cash deposited from Beirut as a part of emergency measures taken on account of
Lebanon’s instability on the time.”

Ambassador Wubshet Demissie goes on to
verify within the letter that information do certainly present that $640,000 US was despatched
from Beirut to Jeddah. The letter goes on to elucidate that on account of a switch of
$600,000 US to DLA Piper made on April 15th 2009, solely $39,895.00 US
of the unique quantity remained.

The message clarified as different paperwork
have, that the cash was used to cowl the bills of consultancy periods
given to Ethiopian embassies within the US, UK and Belgium.

What this doc reveals is that Ambassador Halima Mohamed was made conscious that the big sum of cash belonging to the ladies she was appointed to serve was in reality tranfered to DLA Piper. The message to her workplace from the Jeddah consulate’s, then headed by Ambassador Wubshet Demissie, clarifies that Ambassador Halima had realized of what occurred to the neighborhood’s cash by June 2016. However she by no means revealed the reality to Ethiopians in Lebanon to a burning query that they had for over seven years. Her subsequent silence on the matter is puzzling.

Ambassador Halima, who’s currenelty the Director Common of International Ministry’s ethics fee, wouldn’t reply to a number of calls and textual content messages to her telephone requesting readability as to why she by no means spoke up.

The creator of the letter, nevertheless, was reached by Addis Normal. Ambassador Wubshet Demissie, consul common in Jeddah, was relocated to the International Ministry in Addis Abeba in 2018.

Ambassador Wubshet Demissie (Picture: Saudi Gazette)

The Ethiopian authorities’s former man in Saudi Arabia gave his model of occasions and made loads of revelations.

“From what I bear in mind, this cash belonged to the neighborhood and the Ministry of Finance wasn’t conscious of it,” Ambassador Wubshet stated, “I recall that at a gathering with then International Minister Dr. Tedros Adhanom, each me and Halima raised the problem of this cash with him.”

“After studying of the information, Dr. Tedros
determined that as this cash didn’t belong to the Ethiopian authorities, it needed to
be returned to the neighborhood utilizing mandatory procedures.”

There may be nothing on the recordsdata suggesting
that World Well being Group Director Common Dr. Tedros, who was Ethiopia’s
International Minister on the time, was conscious of the Ethiopian authorities’s manipulation
of funds belonging to the Ethiopian neighborhood in Lebanon. However Ambassador
Wubshet went on to inform Addis Normal that after Dr. Tedros had ordered
the cash delivered again to the neighborhood, he had believed that the cash had
since been returned and that the matter was taken care of. Ambassador Wubshet
expressed shock when instructed that this wasn’t the case. Like the opposite diplomats,
he claims to know nothing in regards to the switch to DLA Piper’s M&T financial institution
account.

“I haven’t heard something about this cash getting used for embassy sit downs with an American lobbyist agency,” he stated. When reminded that he was being contacted on account of his identify and signature being discovered on a doc confirming that he was properly conscious of the consulate delivering fee to DLA Piper for its companies, he merely stated he couldn’t bear in mind.

“I do bear in mind an audit being carried out
at the moment. However I don’t bear in mind signing any such doc.”

“The audit was carried out after
Ambassador Halima Mohamed requested the federal government look into allegations that
the consulate in Jeddah had taken cash belonging to the neighborhood in Beirut.”
In line with Ambassador Wubshet, the audit was carried out by Ambassador Nega
Tsegaye himself.

He admits to having obtained messages
from Ethiopians in Lebanon requesting the return of the cash. “I perceive
that many Ethiopians in Lebanon dwell in determined conditions. It’s
comprehensible.”

When requested if it could be cheap in
2020 for Ethiopians in Lebanon to request that the Ethiopian authorities return
cash they misplaced again in 2009, he answered within the optimistic.

“Completely. We agreed to this way back with Dr. Tedros Adhanom. This cash didn’t belong to the federal government. There are procedures for cash like this to be returned however there’s no query that it belongs to the Ethiopian neighborhood in Lebanon. The reality is, the federal authorities apart the people concerned wasn’t conscious of the cash’s existence till we began discussing it.”

Present WHO Director Common Dr. Tedros Adhanom. In line with Ambassador Wubshet Demissie, Dr. Tedros ordered $640,000 US despatched to the Lebanon based mostly Ethiopian neighborhood as soon as he realized of the affair (Picture: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Photos)

Ambassador Wubshet additionally appeared to agree that if a consul common was to ship property from one nation to a different, he’d require the participation of somebody in Addis Abeba. That is in keeping with the truth that Ambassador Nega Tsegaye helped facilitate the financial institution switch that Ambassador Tekleab Kebede lastly executed.

Ambassador Wubshet’s testimony, if correct, would additionally verify that Ethiopia’s consul common, Ambassador Halima Mohamed, had totally investigated the disappearance of the cash, earlier than chosing to stay silent in the course of her tenure in Beirut.

Ambassador Wubshet Demissie’s relative openness on the subject is likely to be deemed the conduct of somebody with little or nothing to cover. However the former consul common in Jeddah, who revealed that his workplace had obtained requests for info on the lacking cash, has by no means answered any such questions from the general public. He gave no one any indications that the problem of the cash had reached the higher echelons of presidency and till he was instructed {that a} doc together with his identify on it advised his data of all the small print, he too, like his counterpart in Lebanon, prefred to keep away from all speak on the topic.

As well as, Ambassador Wubshet’s declare that the federal government was made conscious of the problem years later seems to be unfaithful. This doc under reveals Ethiopia’s state coffer heads have been made conscious of DLA Piper’s fee bundle already on June 17 2009 on the newest. Barely a month after the lobbyist agency obtained their fee.

In 2006, one other doc from Ethiopia’s consulate in Jeddah revealed one other facet of Ambassador Wubshet Demissie. The doc, a 52 web page inner memo penned by Ambassador Wubshet himself, was leaked to Ethiopian media and was one thing of a guidebook for embassies and consulates in search of to exert affect over the Ethiopian expatriate communities they have been purported to are likely to. Among the many suggestions, the recruiting of neighborhood brokers who would function ruling occasion ideologues in Ethiopian communities around the globe.

Wubshet’s information to “constituency constructing,” was centered on wiping out the political opposition’s affect and turning expat communities into regime loyalist camps that will battle to fight the unfold of stories or reviews that counter the state narrative. All in all, it seems that Ambassador Wubshet had meant to get Ethiopians within the diaspora to do what the federal government ended up paying DLA Piper hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to do.

Ethiopian ladies who flock to the Center
East for jobs as home employees achieve this with the hopes of escaping
unemployment, dim prospects and poverty. As soon as in nations comparable to Lebanon,
home employees are on the mercy of the employers because of the kafala system’s
enabling of horrific abuse by employers. Circumstances of deaths of Ethiopian maids in
Lebanon have been reported way back to 1995 with no recognized case of anybody
being delivered to justice by Lebanese courts.

Another excuse for the staggering quantity
of victims is the dearth of involvement of Ethiopian diplomatic establishments when
it involves circumstances of abuse and homicide of home employees. It might clarify why
none bothered to deal with complaints of cash disappearing.

The documentation detailing the cash path of $640,000 US of cash belonging to the neighborhood in Lebanon going from Beirut to Jeddah and at last to DLA Piper within the US is genuine. Not one of the events interviewed offered something that might refute what’s said and authorized by official signatures and stamps. Ambassador Tekleab issued flat out denials, even initially stating that there had been no emergency switch of cash from Beirut to Jeddah, earlier than shifting and stating that he may now not bear in mind. Ambassador Nega Tsegaye in the meantime, personally blocked a Beirut resident’s try at digging for the reality on the International Ministry and hung up when a journalist sought to query him about his identify and signature on a faxed switch request suggesting his involvement.

Humanitarian disaster in Lebanon right now

Eleven years later, Ethiopians in Lebanon stay in circumstances which are simply as dire if not worse than what former consul Asaminew Debele described. Ethiopians in Lebanon have been pleading to be evacuated from the nation since November as a late 2019 monetary meltdown in Lebanon has put many home employees out of a job, penniless and prone to hunger. It’s a scenario that has been compounded by the next outbreak of covid-19 in that nation. Repatriation of stranded, jobless Ethiopians getting ready to hunger appears unlikely. When pressed on the problem International Minister Gedu Andargachew said that point could be wanted to organize quarantine places for giant variety of arrivals. Nonetheless, International Ministry’s Director Common for Center East Affairs, Ambassador Shamebo Fitamo sugegsted that home employees in Lebanon aren’t a precedence for the federal government. In a latest tweet, Ambassador Shamebo says “Why you don’t fear about 110 million public Well being to not be contaminated?”.

Ethiopian authorities officers have made it clear that the repatriations of Ethiopians in Lebanon is just not on the playing cards. However for these in dire want of assist, an pressing monetary assist on the very least would dispel fears of a rise in starvation and homelessness amongst stranded migrants in Lebanon. In any case, a part of those that at the moment are stranded are those that made the bitter life in Lebanon their future and have, a dacade in the past, a US$640,000 of their hard-earned cash effortlssly paid to a lobbying agency that had no enterprise to supply them with assist. AS
The put up AS Investigates: A decade in the past Ethiopian diplomats siphoned $640,000 from maids in Lebanon to repay a US based mostly foyer agency. What occurred subsequent? appeared first on Addis Normal.

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