By Fasika Tadesse Fortune Staff Writer
Ermias T. Amelga is expected to start implementing his plans to resolve the snags of Access Real Estate (ARE) S.C starting tomorrow February 23, 2015, after the committee set up by the government succeeded in having him back to Ethiopia after an eight-month negotiation, on Thursday February 19, 2015.
Ever since he came back from the United States in the mid-1990s, he has been selling his new initiatives. He took over an edible oil mill from the state and turned it into the first water bottling plant; established the first private equity i.e Access Capital Services S.C. He also promoted and became board chairman of Zemen Bank, a commercial bank initially operating with a one-branch concept, relying on much technology, but currently operating with additional branches. His later growth was the establishment of ARE.
ARE was originally formed by five shareholders, with a 50,000 Br registered capital namely, Ermias, its CEO and chairman of the board, Access Capital, Haileleul Tamiru, partner of Deloitte, a global consulting firm, Tekle Alemneh, a person who was with Ermias in forming Zemen, and Amsalle Bayu, his lawyer. Later on, the number of shareholders increased to 652 and its capital grew to 41.6 million Br. Of this, 34 million Br is paid-up.
Arriving on Thursday morning, February 19, 2015, Ermias went straight to his mother’s house. He rescheduled his arrival twice as he was expected on February 14, 2015 and then February 16, 2015. He returned via the Ethiopian Airlines in a business class flight at 7:35am in the morning, having departed from Dubai at 4:30am on a flight he booked a day earlier.
Confirming his arrival, Mekuria Haile, minster at the Ministry of Urban Development, Housing, Construction (MoUDHC) spoke to Fortune but declined to give any more detail on the issue simply stating, “We will have a joint press briefing.”
For his return, Ermias got a guarantee from the government through the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), to suspend a total of 81 criminal charges lodged against him and his firm for one year, he also earned a one-year legal guarantee and protection until he agreed to settle shareholders’ woes and homebuyers’ losses within the period he was granted. The latest and the last audit report of 2011/12 of ARE by Kokeb Moges Co, pronounced “the company was in huge difficulty to continue in business,” that was revealed in 2013 subsequent to his flight to Dubai.
ARE sold homes for 2,703 homebuyers, 81 of which are from the diaspora communication. The homebuyers paid 1.4 billion Br, trusting the company’s promise that it would construct and deliver the homes by constructing over the 19 sites scattered across the capital, some of the plots are secured with a joint venture deal with other companies. They remain stalled after his sudden departure facing criminal probe on a bounced check two years ago, after he was released from jail in relation with the bounced check he issued to his client.
Two committees were set up in July 2014, comprising high level government officials, homebuyers and shareholders. These committees were established by the order of the Prime Minister, who received several complaints from the homebuyers and shareholders to intervene in the dispute, following the flight of Ermias, leaving in his wake, the company and the shareholders in mess.
Since their establishment, Ermias has been negotiating with the two committees, the first comprising 10 members, and chaired by Mekuria, and Kebede Chane, minister of Trade, as his deputy. Getachew Ambaye, minister of Justice, and Abate Sitotaw, deputy mayor of Addis Abeba, serve as members, while Nuredin Mohammed, advisor to the State Minister for Trade and general manager of Alle Bejimla, runs the lower committee entitled ‘technical committee’, which consists of nine members from the Ministry of Trade (MoT), representatives of homebuyers and shareholders, as well as officials from the MoUDHC.
This move is one of the actions by the committee that was empowered by Hailemariam to take legal, administrative and political measures to resolve the problems faced by homebuyers and shareholders. Since the setup of the committee, it has secured 37 plots of land registered in the name Access and Ermias and was dealing with Ermias to return him back for the settlement of the complications.
During the deal with the committee, Ermias designed short, and long-term plans to resolve the issue within a year and get the approval from the government of Ethiopia. The short-term plan aims at solving the problems of the homebuyers; the long-term will deal with the problems of the shareholders, according to a senior official who is close to the case.
In his proposal, Ermias promised to return to Ethiopia with three Chinese companies, one working in construction and two in mining, to finish the construction works that have been started, according to this same source.
“The construction firm will inject 1.2 billion Br for the finishing of the houses that are under construction,” the source told Fortune.
He will start implementing his plans of settling the problem by Monday February 23, 2015 said one of his relatives, who also explained to Fortune that Ermias cannot give any statement before he starts work and right now, he is with his family taking a break.
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