10 February 2018

Ethiopia: Sabir, Wilmar Engage in Yet Another Battle At Cassation Bench

Wilmar claims it should not make the down payment stating its investment in the country

Sabir Argaw and his former partner Wilmar Group, in dispute over a share buyout for the past one year, have set out for another battle at the Cassation Bench.

The Case reached the Cassation Bench two months ago when Wilmar appealed to the Bench displeased with the Supreme Court's order in Sabir's favour, stating the Court made a fundamental error of law in sustaining the High Court's ruling. Closing the Case, the Supreme Court, considering Wilmar's failure to deposit 370 million Br as security, half of the disputed money, ordered to proceed with the hearing.

Wilmar, founded in 1991 is headquartered in Singapore and engages in agribusiness, stated in the appeal that it must not have been requested for the down payment for it has sufficient investment in the country. Admitting Wilmar's appeal through its lawyer Mesfin Tafesse, justices of the bench ordered Sabir to respond to the suit.

In the statement submitted on February 7, 2018, Million Assefa, Sabir's lawyer, stated that the lower court's decision to request the security was justified.

Million also argued that the properties in the country could not be considered as security for the Company is listed in the international stock market, and it could have been sold anytime. He also pointed that the Company is allowed to repatriate its profits anytime out of the country. He further requested the Court to close the Case and lift the injunction order to let them proceed with the execution of the lower court's ruling.

The adjudicative court ruled in favour of Sabir in July 2017, ordering Wilmar to transfer the shares to Sabir. The shares in dispute came into the scene when Sabir Argaw, a father of eight and the major shareholder and managing director of AL-SAM Plc. and Wilmar partnered in a joint venture arrangement in 2014 to set up 14 factories with an estimated investment of seven billion Birr.

This partnership, though, could not last longer as their dispute ended up at the Federal High Court with Sabir suing Wilmar on February 17, 2017, to enforce a share buy out contract concluded via email for the latter to sell its 50pc share for 370 million Br. The adjudicative court ruled in favour of Sabir approving the transaction between the two.

Displeased with this ruling Wilmar took the case to the Supreme Court which sustained the lower court's ruling. Wilmar again appealed to the highest judicial body where the case is currently pending.

Wilmar will submit its response on Sabir's defence circumstances to the Court on February 27, 2018.

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