We’re talking about someone who owns 4.7% of Ethiopia’s economy, but …
BY ABRAHA BELAY | ETHIOMEDIA
Saudi Arabia has released Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the 65-year-old son of the late King Abdullah and former head of the elite National Guard, after he agreed to pay $1 billion to settle corruption allegations against him.
How about billionaire Mohammmad al-Amoudi? Is he able to pay $1 billion up front to secure his freedom?
Well, on paper, al-Amoudi is the 2nd richest Arab with a fortune of $10 billion. In reality, however, a different story may emerge.
Take his case in Morocco.
Morocco has only one oil refinery, and its called Samir. Samir was a 200,000-barrel-a-day refinery whose 70% stake was owned by the Corral Holdings of al-Amoudi. Samir went bankrupt during the 2014-2015 oil price crash in the region.
When al-Amoudi couldn’t pay the $1.3 billion debt, a Moroccan court decided to liquidate the refinery and Samir was up for sale. Samir was worth $2.1 billion if sold but the Moroccan government incurred over $4 billion debt, which points the accusatory finger to Corral Holdings of al-Amoudi because it was unable to inject enough cash into the ailing refinery and pull it back out of bankruptcy.
So, al-Amoudi has a huge debt to settle in Morocco.
Move to Ethiopia, where al-Amoudi is the 2nd largest employer after the government. He reportedly owns about 70 businesses, mining being the leading source of revenue for al-amoudi who controls 98% of gold mining in Ethiopia.
Al-Amoudi’s investments in Ethiopia are shrouded in mystery. For instance, no one knows for sure how much he makes out of gold. His gold exports are shipped out of the country aboard his private planes without any known inspection, according to ‘The Reporter’ newspaper whose investigative reports had nearly cost the life of the paper’s editor, Amare Aregawi, when he was attacked by a gang of four in 2008.
Al-Amoudi has been very close to the ruling party and has had, to quote him, “a free ride” across Ethiopia. Much to the anger of the much-restricted Ethiopian private investors, al-Amoudi has several upstart projects but have been standing idle for lack of finance, and his vast agri-investments have in recent years become the target of anti-government uprisings.
Al-Amoudi is now being held on corruption charges in Saudi Arabia, and the charges are not known if related to the 1988 mega fortune when al-Amoudi won a $30 billion contract to build an oil storage complex across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The only glimmer of hope in the dimming business empire of al-Amoudi looks his investments in Sweden where he is the owner of the petrol chain Preem, which has over 500 gas stations across Sweden.
The problem is Preem is too small when you are told to pay $1 billion or over.
All said, if al-Amoudi couldn’t pay his debt incurred as loss of the once-lucrative Moroccan oil refinery, and with prospects of his investments in Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia facing trouble, how is he going to bail himself out of prison like Prince Miteb bin Abdullah?