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The military-run Metals and Engineering Corporation’s (METEC) office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

TIKSA NEGERI/Reuters

Ethiopia on Friday charged the former head of the state electricity company and the former deputy head of military-run industrial conglomerate METEC with corruption in relation to the giant hydroelectric dam the country is building.

Azeb Asnake and Mulu Woldegebriel were charged in relation to a 5.1 billion Ethiopian birr (about $159 million) contract awarded to METEC to clear a forest area where water from the dam on the Nile River is planned to flow, Attorney-General office spokesman Zinabu Tunu told Reuters.

At least half of the money was wasted and the contract was never finalised, he said.

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Azeb is the former CEO of Ethiopian Electric Power and Mulu is the former deputy head of METEC.

Azeb did not respond to phone calls seeking comment after Friday’s announcement by the attorney general’s office. Mulu, previously charged in a separate corruption case involving METEC, is in jail awaiting trial in that case.

Nearly 50 other people, some of them former METEC officials and others employees of private companies involved in the contract, were charged along with the two senior officials, the spokesman said.

The case is the latest probe into graft by the government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office last year vowing to clean up state-owned firms and the military.

He cancelled many METEC contracts, including one related to the nearly $5 billion Grand Renaissance Dam.

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