In the Arab world, the reputation of a businessman often comes down to his relationship with dictators and corrupt political leaders.
This is particularly true in the case of telecom operators pushing for contracts in war-torn Iraq. Whereas most Western entrepreneurs were frightened to enter the region, let alone set up business there, Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian chairman and CEO of Orascom Telecom Holding, visited Baghdad numerous times after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Soon, Naguib Sawiris’ $160 million investment in Iraqna, an Orascom subsidiary, became Iraq’s leading cellular network, and gained profits of $30 million to $40 million a year, less about $2 million a month in security costs. Naguib Sawiris was different than other people in the Arab world, though, because he supposedly "supported the overthrow of Hussein in Iraq," the media widely reported.
What the media didn’t widely report is that one of OrascomTelecom’s shareholders bribed Iraqi officials to support its winning bid for one of three GSM licenses awarded in Iraq in 2003, according to a May 2004 Memo authored by John Shaw, U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for International Technology Security.
Shaw discovered that Nadhim Auchi, a controversial British-born Iraqi billionaire, had an equity interest in Orascom’s bid and engineered the disbursement of bribes to leading Iraqi officials who determined which company would win the bid. Auchi was quoted in news outlets as being one of Saddam Hussein’s former "financiers" and also confirmed he was a minority shareholder in Orascom, as news outlets like MSNBC reported.
Auchi isn’t the only dangerous Orascom shareholder. Ironically, Forbes, which features NS on its billionaire’s list, also reported that the radical Islam group Hamas released financials showing it held "big stakes in the Cairo-based cell phone high-flier O. Telecom."
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