Ethiopia conducted probe into WHO chief over alleged financial, sexual crimes

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Ethiopian authorities conducted an investigation into Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, former Ethiopian Health Minister and the current head of the World Health Organisation (WHO, over alleged financial wrongdoing and sexual misconduct in 2021, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing internal documents of Ethiopian law enforcement bodies.

The report said that the financial intelligence center of the Ethiopian Finance Ministry had begun investigating the activities of the WHO head in June 2021, citing a dossier made public by the Paris-based Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, which consists of documents sent to the judicial authorities and the federal police. The documents include bank information, handwritten witnesses’ statements and online correspondence between investigators, witnesses and banks. Ethiopian investigators were checking allegations that Ghebreyesus was involved in embezzlement of public funds, sexual misconduct, illegal property acquisitions in Addis Ababa, bid rigging and illegal procurement during his tenure as Ethiopia’s health minister between 2005 and 2012.

The dossier also contains a claim that Ghebreyesus allegedly received a bribe to grant a contract for the supply of mosquito nets, the news outlet reported. The Ethiopian financial intelligence unit also alleged that the ex-health minister harassed women and promoted those who accepted his sexual advances and punished those who did not.

Ghebreyesus himself rejected all allegations, saying that it was nothing more than a “smear campaign.” Bloomberg reported that these documents contained no proof confirming the accusations.

The investigation may have been politically motivated, as Ghebreyesus is Tigrayan by ethnicity and there was a violent conflict between the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) at that time, according to the report. Following a peace treaty between Addis Ababa and Tigray rebels in November 2022, the investigation was stopped and no criminal charges were brought against the WHO chief, the news agency said.

Ethiopia has been struggling with a violent internal conflict since November 2020, when the central government accused the TPLF of attacking its military base and launched an anti-terrorist operation in the region. A sustainable truce was reached in early November 2022. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, displaced millions of people, and caused a dire humanitarian crisis in the country.

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