Egypt's richest man sentenced to 3 years in jail on tax evasion: ETA

El-Sayed Gamal Eldeen, Tuesday 1 Jul 2014

Sentenced in absentia, Nassef Sawiris is also fined LE50 million for refraining from paying due checks to Egypt's tax authority

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The country's richest man, Nassef Sawiris (Photo: AP)

Egypt's wealthiest man, Nassef Sawiris, has been sentenced in absentia to three years in prison and fines worth LE50 million on charges of refraining from paying due checks to Egypt's Tax Authority (ETA), sources at the authority told Ahram Online.

Sawiris, aged 53, runs Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), the Egyptian subsidiary of Dutch company OCI NV.

OCI and Nassef Sawiris were not immediately available for comment.

In March 2013, the tax authority accused OCI of tax evasion worth some LE14 billion ($2 billion) over the $12 billion sale of its subsidiary Orascom Building Materials Holding (OBMH) to cement giant Lafarge in 2007.

In April of the same year, OCI reached a settlement over its tax dispute with the government, with the company agreeing to pay the ETA LE7.1 billion in 10 instalments from 2013-2017.

As per the settlement, OCI was to begin with an initial payment of LE2.5 billion ($0.36 billion) by mid-May 2013, then follow it up with LE900 million by December, the sum for which the company is facing scrutiny for non-payment.

The rest of the payment period would see six equal instalments of LE450 million ($64.6 million) and two final ones of LE500 million ($71.8 million) in 2017.

A year later, OCI NV had announced in a statement that the Egyptian prosecutor-general on 18 February "fully exonerated Orascom Construction Industries, the company’s Egyptian subsidiary, of any wrongdoing and all charges of tax evasion".

However, ETA Head Mostafa Abdel-Kader said in April that the authority had not dropped its case against Orascom Construction Industries regarding the latter's tax evasion.

Abdel-Kader stated at a press conference that the tax evasion dispute with OCI, the Egyptian branch of Dutch company OCI NV, remains ongoing, as the company failed to honour its agreement with the ETA stipulating it pay LE7 billion ($1 billion) of tax arrears on 10 instalments between 2013 to 2017.

This follows the ETA's handing the OCI to the state’s public prosecution for refusing to pay the second instalment.

Nassef Sawiris remains Egypt's richest person with a net worth of $6.7 billion, according to the 2014 Forbes list.

He is the 205th richest person in the world, dropping from 182nd last year. He is currently joint third richest person in Africa alongside South Africa's Nicky Oppenheimer.

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