ESAT News (August 7, 2017)
Security forces have arrested about 30 expats and Ethiopians who work at international and regional offices in Addis Ababa for carrying foreign currency notes. The arrest over the weekend has also targeted members of their families, according to ESAT’s sources.
It is not clear on what grounds the arrests were carried out but Ethiopian regulation allow importing foreign currency of upto $3000, and any cash in excess of this amount should be declared at customs, according to travel advisories available online. But the Ethiopian Airlines website says “visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign currency but this must be declared on arrival to the customs authorities.”
The amount of currency seized in the arrests is not available. Sources say security forces have investigated the arrested individuals for any links to businesses or government officials.
A serious foreign currency crunch has led the regime to take several measures in recent months. Ethiopians abroad and expats in the country will be required to pay their utility bills in foreign currencies. The ongoing crackdown against corrupt officials and the new tax hikes are believed to have been taken as a result of the crunch, according to observers of the developments in Ethiopia.
“Foreign Exchange reserves were heavily depleted in 2012 and remain at low levels. By July 2016, gross reserves were $3.05 billion which covers approximately 1.7 months of imports. In addition, the decrease in foreign exchange reserves has been exacerbated by weaker than expected earnings from coffee exports and low international commodity prices for other important exports such as gold and oil seeds,” according to export.gov.