Chinese Man Gets 9 year in Prison over Smuggling Charges

ADDIS ABABA – A Federal High Court in Addis Ababa sentenced a Chinese national for nine years in prison for trying to illegally smuggle communications gear into Ethiopia, the Ministry of Justice said on Wednesday.

According to the ministry, Lee Layong, a Chinese national, was convicted of one account related to attempting to smuggle the telecom equipment into Ethiopia from China.

The device – TD-LTE gateway with 16 sim card slots – was intercepted along with its full accessories during a search at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport upon his arrival from his country.

Ethiopia’s Telecom Fraud Offence Proclamation bans imports of any telecom equipment without obtaining prior permit from the Ministry.

The law also says such offences are punishable with rigorous imprisonment of up to 15 years and with fine up to Birr 150,000.

Initially, the defendant denied the charge brought by the Federal prosecutors after it was read to him via his translator.

Subsequently, the federal prosecutors presented their witnesses, documents and exhibited evidences to the court.

The court then told the suspect to present his case and defend himself. He, however, failed to do so.

The federal High court, therefore, found him guilty of the offense.

The court, after considering Lee’s petition to reduce charges including his prior clean criminal record, sentenced him to nine years in prison. He was also slapped with a 50,000 Birr fine.

The court ordered for the telecom device and its accessories to be confiscated by the government.

Such equipment are often used by individuals to engage in telecom fraud sharing the state monopoly’s Ethio Telecom business, causing the firm to lose a significant amount of revenue annually.