Inside Job

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  • First suspects appear in court after 300 million birr bank heist
  • Ringleader evades capture

Twenty-three people have been arrested for stealing over 300 million birr by creating fake checking accounts at both private banks and the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia.
The Addis Ababa Police Commission, who carried out the arrests said most of the money was stolen from Chinese companies using bank accounts. Detectives said the suspects stole 140 million birr from CBE using forged checks, targeting CBE branches in Addis Ababa, Adama and Debere Birhan.
Private banks including Dashen, Oromia International and others were also victims. They lost over 160 million birr through the fraudulent actions. The crimes were done at different times and involved repeat offenders.
The Federal General Attorney reported that the suspects had a connection with the bank and Ethio telecom workers allowing them to rip the banks off.
“The suspects had people in the banks to tell them which companies and individuals had a large amount of money in the bank accounts. They would then prepare documents and checks, acting like the original owner of the accounts had ordered them to withdraw the money. Telecom and bank staff would collaborate by diverting calls and approving documents.”
“People working for Ethio telecom would divert a call allowing them to appear to be calling from a bank. Then when bank cashiers attempt to call the owner of the account instead they would get the criminal who would order them to withdraw the money,” a source in the Federal Attorney General’s Office said.
Abiy Tsegaye, the suspected mastermind of the heist, has left the country and police are working with Interpol to capture him. Three suspects are employed by Ethio telecom and two by the banks. The suspects appeared at Lideta High Court in the middle of August and are due back in court in October. Five charges have been filed against them including cheating the government and fabricating false checks and documents and stealing a large sum of money. Other suspects are still at large.