Saudi Arabia to release Saudi-Ethiopian business tycoon detained during a corruption crackdown

The Ethiopian Prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, said Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi, arrested in November during a crackdown on corruption, will soon be released. This was made known to the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency after the Prime minister arrived from the Gulf kingdom of Saudi Arabia where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a two-day visit.

“One of the reasons we went to Saudi Arabia was to ask the Saudi government to release Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi,” said Ahmed.

Al-Amoudi, born in Ethiopia to a Saudi father and an Ethiopian mother has invested heavily in the construction, agriculture and mining sectors in Ethiopia. He was among 11 princes, four current ministers and top businessmen detained during the swoop by a new anti-corruption body in Saudi Arabia.

According to Ahmed, the incarceration of one Ethiopian is the incarceration of all Ethiopians and the arrest of Sheikh Al-Amoudi is top on the agenda for all Ethiopians.

“We have made the request – we are sure that he will be released very soon,” he added.

Ethiopia also announced on Friday that Saudi Arabia has agreed to release 1,000 Ethiopian nationals who have been in prison in the Gulf state for a variety of offences. They also said that the officials in Riyadh are in the process of deporting more than 500,000 illegal Ethiopian migrants.

What you didn’t know about Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi

Al-Amoudi was born in Ethiopia but migrated with his family back to Saudi Arabia at 19. When he got to Saudi Arabia, he built a personal relationship with the Kingdom’s ruling family. This earned him an important contract to build the Saudi government’s $30 billion nationwide underground oil storage complex. That contract cemented his fortune and instantly made him a billionaire.

In the mid 1980s, Al-Amoudi returned back to Ethiopia and founded Mohammed International Development Research and Organization Companies (MIDROC), a diversified holding company which he used to get gold mines from the government at a fraction of their real market value.

MIDROC Gold was Ethiopia’s main gold exporter and produces close to 5,000Kg of gold and silver annually from one of its mines, called Lega dembi. However, a few days ago, the government of Ethiopia announced the suspension of MIDROC’s Lega Dembi gold-mining license.  

He also built the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa, which is the country’s foremost 5-star hotel. He acquired 70 percent of Ethiopia’s National Oil Corporation and founded Tossa, Ethiopia’s first industrial steel production plant.

Al-Amoudi, 71, owns a 69 percent stake in Addis Tyre, Ethiopia’s sole manufacturer of Tyres. He also owns a stake in Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc.

The bulk of his business success has also been built around Sweden.  In 1994, Al-Amoudi spent $750 million in acquiring Sweden’s largest integrated energy company, OK Petroleum, and subsequently renamed the company Preem Petroleum.

In 1999, his Swedish-registered investment company, Corral, acquired a controlling interest in two Moroccan oil refining companies- Samir and SCP. Al-Amoudi later merged both companies and further invested half a billion dollars in modernizing the plant. Coral went bankrupt and was shut down by the government in 2015 over unpaid taxes.

The man who was once called the world’s richest black person by Forbes also supplies coffee to StarbucksCurrently, the arrest of  Al-Amoudi has left a vast empire that employs more than 70,000 people in oblivion.