December 7, 2011

Ethiopia: Al-Amoudi to Pay Justice Ministry Nearly $1 Million

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 9:41 pm
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Mohammed Hussein Ali Al-Amoudi has been ordered to pay 905,158 dollars by the Federal High Court Seventh Civil Bench that he had collected to reclaim debt, which was not only owed to him but also to the government.

The ruling on Tuesday, November 29, 2011, came after the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) asked the court for judgement execution.

It all started when Shadia Nadin, Tamrat Layne, Hassen Abdela, and Nigussie Hayelom where found guilty of illegally exporting 1,000tn of coffee, a decade ago.

Along with their criminal liability for mishandling government property, they had been ordered by the High Court to pay 26.4 million Br, the value of the coffee. Although they had appealed to the Supreme Court, contesting the verdict, the Supreme Court had endorsed the High Court’s decision.

In the midst of the appeal hearing, Al-Amoudi intervened in the suit. The defendants also owed him money, as they had taken 16 million dollars from him, of which the majority (9.5 million dollars) had been taken by Shadia, while Nigussie and Hassen had taken 556,324 dollars and 6.4 million dollars, respectively, Al-Amoudi had claimed.

The debts of the latter two were settled after he had sold their shares in East Africa Bottling, worth 58.6 million Br. He then took his case to courts, both in Switzerland and Djibouti, going after properties of the remaining defendants. In the process, he collected 6.5 million dollars deposited in Swiss bank accounts under the names of Tamrat’s son and Shadia.

He had also been awarded a favourable verdict by the Supreme Court in Djibouti five years ago. Al-Amoudi could collect 2.5 million dollars to fulfil remaining debt owed to him by Shadia, the Djiboutian court ruled.

Although the court does not have any say over the rulings of the Swiss courts, it does for those in Djibouti, with which Ethiopia has signed a judicial assistance agreement, where the courts in each country enforce the rulings of each other.

It was while Al-Amoudi was applying for execution of the Djiboutian judgment that the Ethiopian MoJ had intervened.

The government takes priority in collecting debt from the assets of defendants, both locally and internationally, the ministry claimed. It asked the Federal High Court for all of the money taken by Al-Amoudi, citing a previous ruling by the Supreme Court Cassation Bench as precedence.

Alganeh Teshome, a lawyer for Al-Amoudi, contested this claim. The verdict by the Switzerland court was given before the Cassation Bench had reached a verdict, he said.

However, the money had been taken by Al-Amoudi despite his agreement with the MoJ that any assets seized from the defendants would be used to settle the debt of the government, the ministry claimed.

The three presiding judges at the Supreme Court, Aseged Begashew, Desta Gebru, and Tsegaye Amarew, ruled in favour of the ministry. The government has priority in settling debt, even using assets located outside of Ethiopia, they ruled. However, they have no say over the decisions of the Swiss courts, they ruled.

Additionally, they rejected the ministry’s claim to all of the money that Al-Amoudi took to settle debts. Nonetheless, Al-Amoudi had taken 905,158 dollars more than the amount that his debtors owed him and should, therefore, pay that amount to the government, they ruled.

The 2.5 million dollars deposited in Banque Indo-Suez Meri Rouqe of Djibouti under Shadia’s name and Berames Plc, which she administers, should be given to the government, the verdict read.

Al-Amoudi then appealed this decision to the Supreme Court Cassation Bench, claiming an error of law. The hearing was adjourned until December 18, 2011. Within this time, the ministry will apply to the Djibouti Court for a judgment execution on the 2.5 million dollars held in Djibouti.

But, the court does not have jurisdiction over banks in Djibouti to order the execution, the presiding judge, Muluken Teshale, said.

The ministry should take its judgement execution to the courts in Djibouti to collect the 2.5 million dollars, the he wrote in his judgement.

But, the execution should be frozen until the verdict of the Cassation Bench is known, Al-Amoudi argued unsuccessfully, however.

“Appealing to the Cassation Bench does not prohibit the ministry from collecting the money,” the judge ruled.

Muluken also ordered Al-Amoudi to pay the 905,158 dollars without interest, since the Supreme Court did not order the payment of interest in original the case with the debtors.

Al-Amoudi presented a bank statement from the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) Meskel Square branch to show that he can pay the amount, leading the case to be closed at the High Court, while his appeal is still pending at the Supreme Court Cassation Bench.


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