Monday, June 17, 2024

FBI questions AG’s pause of tax investigation


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the Federal Police says they oppose the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) decision to freeze an ongoing investigation of 33 grade one contractors. In a letter written to the OAG’s Economic Crimes Department, police stated that the order will affect police operations.
Previously the OAG sent a letter to the FBI saying that the grade one contractor’s association wrote Birhanu Tsegaye, Attorney General stating that the association was addressing the problem.
A letter signed by Fuad Kiyar, the Director of the Economic Crimes Division at the OAG, stated that talks are underway with higher officials to solve the issue.
He also passed an injunction for police until the process is completed.
“We are working towards a solution and until authorities pass the final decision, the investigation should be paused and we kindly ask police to send the necessary data it has about the investigation,” reads the letter.
The OAG also asked for the details of the FBI’s investigation. The letter asks for data including the name of the companies under investigation, paid amount by each company and if there is an unpaid amount and the stage that the investigation of every file is in. Police responded that they have sent many files finalizing its investigations to the prosecutors and issues related with the paid or unpaid tax the Ministry of Revenue (MoR) should held accountable for.
In its final remarks, the letter reflected that the investigation must pause until the attorney general passes the final decision.
Birhanu Abate, director at the FBI Tax and Customs Directorate, responded by saying that police would pause the investigation with reservation.
Police asked the OAG 13 questions. They feel the action is unusual and doesn’t benefit anyone.
The files were closed without an investigation via an order by the former director at the FBI.
The FBI said if cases are going to be interrupted when there are accusations of illegal receipt holding, the wrong message will be sent to taxpayers. As the foreign contractors who are being investigated for the same reason are being treated differently then it will seem that the rule of law is not being enforced. The letter went on to say that other levels of contractors or taxpayers should be allowed to benefit from similar decisions as a principle.
Police also mentioned that the letter sent from OAG contains contractors who are not under investigation, which needs to be explained.
The FBI argued that this sets a bad precedent for similar cases. The investigation was based on the audit report of the former Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA).
“There are various audit reports that the Ministry of Revenue is sending to us now and we don’t know if we are going to continue our investigation or not,” Birhanu Abate told Capital.
The letter also stressed that giving a decision in general and not seeing specific cases is unjust.
In a letter written to the Attorney General from the economic crime’s directorate, the director recommended that application of the contractors should not be considered in general terms and that it would be better if they could apply individually.
Police noted that any administration decisions given by the Attorney General should not override the laws of the nation, stressing the decision to interrupt or to pause must be given carefully.
Another issue raised was that the case was reopened after one person decided to close it. The police used the recent MeTEC case as an example of how individual decisions without oversight were subject to serious mistakes.
They recommended that talks be held to hear every side of the story.
The police added that the cases under investigation don’t only concern the cases of illegal receipts, but various tax evasion crimes.

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