March 18, 2008

Ethiopia : Over $6 mln seized in black market raid

By Groum Abate


Police in Ethiopia have seized a staggering two million dollars in hard currency with an illegal money changer and 13 million birr in cash with another trader in an unexpected police raid, where several alleged illegal traders were arrested.

The individual with 13 million birr in cash was caught on Thursday March 13, around American Gibi in a place called Beteseb Supermarket. The hard currency was also taken as evidence. Some said that the amount seized during the raid could be over six million dollars including the amount apprehended in Ethiopian birr.

Furthermore, Addis Ababa Police has taken into custody over 35 illegal traders in connection with foreign currency exchanges that police claims has contributed to the current destabilization of prices in the country.

One dollar was changed for 10.60 birr in the past two days before the police cracked down on the black market network on Thursday, March 13, 2008.

Souvenir shops around Filwoha, behind the Ethiopian Postal Service headquarters, in front of Gandhi Memorial Hospital, behind Ethiopia Hotel, around American Gibi, and behind Hilton Hotel were raided by the police.

“The illegal money changers have been in the business for several years without facing much hassle from police,” said observers surprised by the sudden raid.

National Bank on its part had alerted on Friday, March 14 that the public should be aware of counterfeit birr that are being disbursed through the black market.

According to Ethiopian law, foreign currency is only exchangeable at authorized banks, hotels and other outlets and proper receipts should be obtained for transactions. Exchange receipts are required to convert unused Ethiopian currency back to the original foreign currency.

Non compliance with the law results in penalties levied for exchanging money on the black market, ranging from fines to imprisonment.

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