Sep 21 , 2019

A prominent businessperson, Menwyelet Atnafu, died yesterday morning, September 21, 2019, due to what close friends suspect was a stroke.

A prominent businessperson, Menwyelet Atnafu, died yesterday morning, September 21, 2019, due to what close friends suspect was a stroke.

The co-founder and shareholder of Star Business Group (SBG), Menwyelet was at the Hilton hotel early yesterday morning where the incident happened that led to his death. The day before the incident, he had arrived from Bahir Dar City, Amhara Regional State, where he attended the launching ceremony of new road projects.

On Saturday, Menwyelet woke up early at 5:00am to head to the gym at Hilton Addis Abeba Hotel where he was a regular customer and member. At the Hotel he met with Abebaw Desta, his long-time friend and business partner. Menwyelet was complaining of minor pain in his leg and had difficulty walking.

He wanted to get a body massage but was told the service was not available before 7:00am, according to shift workers of Hilton Addis Hotel during the incident. He then decided to swim but was momentarily found drowning by the on-duty lifeguard.

He was taken immediately to Betezata General Hospital, off Ras Mekonnen Avenue in Stadium area, where he was pronounced dead on arrival, according to family members.

The prominent businessperson was born and raised in Gojjam, Amhara Regional State. He got married in 1972 and later moved to the capital in 1982 where he began his life long career in business.

Menwyelet founded SBG in 1997 together with Abebaw, while another prominent businessman, Worku Merga, became a shareholder.

SBG was a major trading house in the 1990s before the trio was arrested a number of times due to alleged involvement in grand corruption. They were all acquitted from many of these allegations subsequently.

The court battles that lasted for around a decade began in the early 2000s following a series of crackdowns by the then Federal Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission.

The former suspects, together with other defendants, were accused of receiving loans for SBG and its affiliates, Meskel Flower Plc, Abeba Gidey Plc, Legeta Trading Plc, Ethio-Investment Group, Nile International Plc, Brehan Assefa Coffee Exporters, and Ab-Mar International Plc, in violation of the bank policies and manuals.

The business people remained in jail fighting charges brought against them. The companies the defendants owned were put under a caretaker management committee chaired by the then secretary-general of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association.

The companies remained in business, and the profits they made were ordered kept in blocked accounts. Nonetheless, they continued to owe a huge debt to banks, including the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and Bank of Abyssinia, as well as Wegagen and Dashen banks.

After four and a half years in jail, they had all been acquitted from their charges and were released from prison in 2005 to claim their companies, cash and piles of debts due to unpaid interest and penalties.

However, the trio was again put in jail together with other prominent business people, former executives of Nile Insurance and Bank of Abyssinia, in 2009.

But again, with the defendants lingering four months in jail and the case being dragged for four more years, the charges were dropped after the then Ministry of Justice ordered the withdrawal of criminal proceedings against the defendants in 2013.

"Menwyelet was a hardworking man who wanted the people around him to grow with him,” said Wondu Beze, a long time friend.

The body is expected to be put to rest on Sunday, September 22, 2019, at St. Rufeal Church. Aged 65 at the time of his departure, Menwyelet is survived by six children.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 21,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1012]

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