46 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 8, No.1 September 2014
The problem of public corruption is one of the pressing issues in Ethiopia today.
The legal and institutional frameworks that combat against corruption1 include
Ethiopia’s substantive criminal law that criminalizes forms of corruptive and
abusive behavior. The Criminal Code defines specific forms of wrongdoing that
constitute crimes of corruption and prescribes respective sanctions.2 Special
procedural and evidentiary rules and provisions are also put in place to facilitate
the effective prevention, detection, prosecution and/or adjudication of corruption
crimes.3 Some of these laws encompass provisions which facilitate the
investigation and prosecution of corruption crimes.
‘Possession of unexplained property’ is one of the kinds of corruption
offence that is expressly proscribed by the Criminal Code. This is a new form of
offence introduced since 2004. Since the entry into force of the new Criminal
Code in May 2005, the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission
(FEACC) and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption commissions of some regional
states have started prosecuting suspected public officials/servants and other
individuals (alleged to have some form of participation with the former ones)
under Art 419 of the Criminal Code.
As some of the court cases involving ‘possession of unexplained property’
demonstrate, there are some confusions and dilemmas on certain crucial aspects
of the concept of ‘possession of unexplained property’ and its prosecution. The
confusion particularly relates to ‘period of interest’ and relevant ‘money’ or
‘property’ that should be part of the criminal investigation, prosecution,
adjudication and confiscation. There is no sufficient clarity regarding the
temporal scope of the offence and the circumstances that justify initiating and
1 Currently there are various institutional, administrative and regulatory measures that
are put in place. These include: the Revised Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption
Commission Establishment Proclamation No. 433/2005, Federal Negarit Gazeta, 11th
Year No.18; the Disclosure and Registration of Assets Proclamation, No.668/2010,
Federal Negarit Gazeta, 16th Year No.18; the Ethiopian Federal Government
Procurement and Property Administration Proclamation No.649/2009, Federal
Negarit Gazeta, 15th Year No. 60. Ethiopia is also a party to both the United Nations
Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the African Union Convention on
Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC).
2 See Book IV, Title III of the Criminal Code (2004) of the Federal Democratic of
Ethiopia, Proclamation No 414/2004, (hereinafter to be referred to as the FDRE
Criminal Code or the Criminal Code) from Chapter I through Chapter III especially
Arts 402- 431 and other cross-referred provisions such as Art 684.
3 The Revised Anti-Corruption Special Procedure and Rules of Evidence Proclamation
No. 434/2005, Federal Negarit Gazeta, 11th Year No.19; Also see the proclamations
mentioned above at supra note 1.