Police in Ethiopia yesterday arrested the former director general of a large military conglomerate that had been involved in building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Ethiopian Dam (GERD).
Major General Kinfe Dagnew, former head of the state-owned Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC), was caught as he tried to flee to neighbouring Sudan, reports state broadcaster FANA.
As part of a major crackdown ordered by new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Kinfe was helicoptered to the capital Addis Ababa, where he appeared in court this morning.
Twenty-seven other people from METEC were also arrested on suspicion of misusing funds from GERD and other projects, for illegal procurement, and for "using two ships for illicit trade", FANA reported.
In all, the crackdown netted 63 people, including "about 36" from the country’s National Intelligence and Security Service, on allegations of human rights violations, including beatings, torture, sodomy, rape, electrocution and killings, FANA said.
A federal high court granted 14 more days for the police, and set the next hearing for 26 November.
In August the Ethiopian government fired METEC from the GERD scheme, where it held the contract for mechanical and electrical work, including installing turbines.
Prime Minister Abiy publicly blamed METEC for ongoing delays, citing complaints made by the dam’s main contractor, Italy’s Salini Impreglio.
"It is a project that was supposed to be completed within five years, but seven or eight years later not a single turbine is operational," Abiy told reporters then.
That move was seen as a sign of Abiy’s determination to clean up politics and balance ethnic interests.
Image: Work on the Renaissance dam is behind schedule (Government of Ethiopia)