Controversy arises in National Alcohol and Liquor Factory bid

Controversy arises in National Alcohol and Liquor Factory bid

Controversy arises in National Alcohol and Liquor Factory bid

US Congressman intervenes on behalf of Eritrean-American

(thereporterethiopia)—–US Congressman has intervened in the privatization process of the National Alcohol and Liquor Factory (NALF) as the former owner of the Factory; Berhane Gebremedhin – a US citizen – is still contesting the latest government attempt to privatize the factory.

A letter issued by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a member of the US House of Representatives representing California’s 48th congressional district on May 15 and 16, 2018 sent directly to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), asks for the return of the factory to Berhane.

“During your acceptance speech, you addressed your goals and objectives. One of the most noteworthy and primary goals of your new administration is to put an end to the extreme corruption which exist at the highest levels of government,” Congressman Rohrabacher said.

Berhane told The Reporter that the factory was taken from him illegally by the Derg regime. In a letter issued in July 1978, the factory was transferred to the ownership of the government.

“My factory wasn’t legally nationalized; rather, it was unlawfully expropriated,” he said.

The factory was first established in early 20th century by a Greek businessman Elias Papassinos. In the 1970s, NALF was taken by the Marxist regime from Berhane. He then went on exile, seeking refuge in US.

The Congressman in his letter to the Prime Minister further stated that “likely unknown to you, corrupt individuals under the Ministry of Public Enterprises are presently attempting to sell the factory in a bid issued on April 5, 2018.

The letter has also insisted for the return of the factory to Berhane.

The controversial congressman, who was seen making comments about political situation in Ethiopia and Eritrea, in his letter also congratulated Abiy Ahmed on his appointment as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Previously, the Congressman, who is believed to be close to the Eritrean regime, was vocal in criticizing the Ethiopian government. In April, 2018 he urged State Secretary Michael Pompeo to improve relations with Eritrea and resume military cooperation.

As far as Berhane’s case is concerned Rohrabacher in his letter also said that “this illegally confiscated property and business must be returned to its rightful owner,” and added that the factory is not the property of Ethiopian government to sell.”

Berhane, who mostly spent his years in the US, came to Ethiopia following the fall of the Derg regime. He has then begun to process, reclaiming his factory from the Ethiopian government.

Finally, on April 8, 1998 the then Ethiopian Privatization Agency after looking into his case decided to return the factory to Berhane. In return, Berhane agreed to pay 26 million birr.

However, Berhane said this decision was unfortunately interrupted by the Ethio- Eritrean war where thousands of Eritreans including him were forced to leave the country because by the time the Ethiopian government found them to be a threat to national interest.

The Congressman finally urged Prime Minister Abiy to meet with Berhane who is presently in Addis Ababa to recover his company and asset.

It is to be recalled that a number of multinational companies are currently bidding to acquire the National Alcohol and Liquor Factory (NALF) which its initial bidding price is estimated to be at 1.2 billion birr.

Companies in the beverage and liquor business including Diageo, Duet – a UK based company – which also owns more than 50 percent share in Dashen Brewery are involved in the bid process.

It is to be recalled that a new regulation was introduced to increase the paid-up capital of NALF. In this respect, it was expanded from 12.2 million birr to 221 million birr.

The factory, over the past few years, has consumed close to one billion birr in the expansion and renovation of its plants. The factory has four plants located in Mekanisa, Sebeta, Akaki and Maichew.

The company which is one of the most profitable state-owned enterprises has managed to expand its profit over the years. With close to 700 employees, National Alcohol has managed to register a profit of 607 million birr, back in 2016.

As far as the bid for the transfer of National Alcohol & Liquor Factory is concerned, the tender will open in June 19, 2018.