The staggering riches of Ethiopia’s “rulers”

When Ethiopian Review released its list of the 2013 Top 10 Richest Ethiopians last week, some people have found the figures hard to believe — and understandably so. Even those who know about the level of corruption in Ethiopia doubt that Azeb Mesfin, for example, has a net worth of $4 billion. An American friend who follows developments in Ethiopia wrote to us expressing his doubt about the staggering level of wealth reported in the list, although he says he is fully aware that the regime is among the most corrupt in the world.

Obviously, it is impossible to know the exact numbers associated with the net worth of member of Ethiopia’s secretive ruling party. We have come up with the estimates based on circumstantial evidences and interviews with TPLF insiders.

Here are some widely acknowledged facts to ponder.

1. Until recently, Azeb Mesfin, the widow of dictator Meles Zenawi, was in charge of EFFORT, a multibillion-dollar conglomeration of over 60 large industrial companies. EFFORT (The Endowment Fund For the Relief of Tigray) dominates every industrial sector in Ethiopia. This fact cannot be denied even by the TPLF lie factories. It is a well-established fact that Azeb siphons of money from these companies. Additionally, she has forced some of the biggest companies in the country to make her a partner. For example, she has ownership interests in Dembel City Center, the largest shopping mall in Ethiopia. How can she be a partner of such multimillion-dollar company with her $200 per month salary?

2. Between 2000 – 2009, over $11 billion (USD) in hard currency was taken out of Ethiopia, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. No one, other than TPLF officials, has access to such capital in Ethiopia.

3. In 2011, Meles Zenwi had admitted that 9 million kilograms of coffee (worth over $100 million USD)  has disappeared from a government controlled warehouse. He brushed off the theft by saying, “don’t do it again!” [see here] This is the thief that Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice praised as a “brilliant leader.”

4. Ethiopia’s mining sector is monopolized by Al Amoudi and his TPLF partners. Gold that is mined at the Legedembi and other mines in Ethiopia is taken out of the country without the knowledge of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mining. Private airplanes owned by Al Amoudi, with security provided by TPLF, carry the gold and take it directly to the London market.

5. Ethiopia’s livestock and food export is also under the control of TPLF and Al Amoudi. As Al Amoudi himself said, major restaurants in UAE and Saudi Arabia are serving organic Ethiopian vegetables and meat.

6. Despite a strict law against khat import and distribution in the U.S., the illegal drug is widely used by Ethiopian immigrants in the Diaspora. The reason is that most of the smuggled khat is brought by TPLF diplomats. Since they have diplomatic status, no one searches them when they arrive in the U.S.

7. Last May 2013, the TPLF-controlled media, such as ETV, reported that tens of millions dollars in cash (USD and Euro) as well as vehicles and buildings were confiscated from two of Azeb Mesfin’s allies who served as heads of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority.  These two individuals were arrested and their assets were seized following a power struggle inside TPLF. If Azeb Mesfin’s allies in the ruling junta have amassed such wealth, is it hard to come up with an estimate of Azeb’s own net worth?

The facts listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. Because of restrictions on press in Ethiopia, most of the looting is going unreported. Those who try to dig information, such as Reeyot Alemu, who was investigating the corruption surrounding the Nile Dam project, end up in prison accused of terrorism.

These are irrefutable facts. Through such “grand theft Ethiopia” and an epic looting spree, the TPLF officials have become among the richest people in the world in the span of just 22 years while the people of Ethiopia are subjected to extreme poverty, so much so that tens of thousands of Ethiopian children in the capital city scavenge for food at the city trash dump.