Sheikh Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi, an Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire worth about US$10 billion, who wanted to buy the Sheraton Kampala Hotel through his Muhammad Investment Development Research Organisation Company (MIDROC) consortium, has been arrested in the midst of an anti-corruption sweep in the rich Middle East kingdom.
In 2000, Al-Amoudi’s MIDROC Ethiopia Private Company Limited won a US$18 million bid for the Sheraton Hotel’s 100 per cent government shares held under Appollo Hotel Corporation, and conditions then issued by the Privatisation Unit stipulated that the money had to be paid within a period of three months.
Also, at the time MIDROC said it would inject US$15 million in refurbishing the Sheraton, and maintain the Starwoods management contract of the 250-room hotel that is located just a few metres from the State House in the leafy Nakasero area.
In an earlier bid in 1998, Ugandan-born Indian tycoon Karim Hirji had won the bid through his Grand Imperial Hotel consortium, but the development was reversed by the Inspectorate of Government (IGG).
It is not clear what happened to the Al-Amoudi Sheraton deal but what is not in doubt now is that the billionaire, who was arrested last Saturday, is one of dozens of elite detainees sleeping on mattresses on the floor of a well-guarded ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh, awaiting the next steps by Saudi authorities.
And early this week the Saudi government released a statement aimed at reassuring investors with ties to any of the individuals arrested. It said that only personal bank accounts have been frozen, and related businesses would not be affected.
Al-Amoudi was born in Dessie, Ethiopia, in 1946 to an Ethiopian mother and a Saudi father. He immigrated to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1960s and made his first billion two decades later with a construction contract to build an underground oil storage facility.
Since then, his empire has grown across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and it includes Sweden’s largest petroleum refiner.