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Arrests over Ethiopia's fake gold
Arrests over Ethiopia's fake gold
By Elizabeth Blunt
BBC News, Addis Ababa

Gold bar (file photo)
The value of the missing gold is around $16m for just one case
Twenty-six people are under arrest over the discovery of 90kg (14 stone) of fake gold in the vaults of Ethiopia's central bank, a senior official says.

The fraud was discovered after some of the supposed gold was sent to South Africa, where it was found to be gold-plated steel.

Those held are expected to be charged in the next couple of weeks.

Rumours have been flying around the capital Addis Ababa about what happened to the real gold and who was to blame.

Those being held include officials of the national bank, said Berhanu Assefa, a spokesman for Ethiopia's Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

The commission has been investigating the case for three months along with Ethiopian police and intelligence officials.

"Around 26 are under arrest - seven from the national bank of Ethiopia, four from the Ethiopian Geological Survey and 15 businessmen and their collaborators have been arrested," Mr Assefa said.

"No-one has yet been charged - we expect that... our prosecutor will charge them."

The value of the missing gold was around 158m Ethiopian birr, or $16m for just one of the missing cases, he said, adding this was a huge amount for a poor country such as Ethiopia.

More missing gold

Although this is the most dramatic case that the anti-corruption commission has had to deal with, it is not actually the biggest.

That was a case involving corrupt tendering and procurement at the State Telecommunications Corporation.

The first fake gold to be found was part of a consignment of 90kg bought from a local businessman.

As well as this case, at least one other is likely to follow, this time involving a further 38kg of fake gold.

This was gold which should have been safely locked in the vaults for the past five years, raising the possibility that it had been tampered with while it was inside the central bank.

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