WIND Mobile Financier Sawiris Says He’s Not a Spy, is “Finished with Canada”

Naguib sawiris 4

In an interview with Egyptian publication Ahram Online, Accelero Capital Holdings co-founder Naguib Sawiris, the former chairman of WIND Mobile, has declared “I am finished with Canada, I tell you,” after Ottawa blocked his company’s $520 million bid to acquire the MTS-owned Allstream fibre optic network.

The Federal government’s decision was made based on the Investment Canada Act, which allows the former to block bids based on national security concerns, on top of a “net benefit to Canada” test which weighs a potential investment’s overall impact on the economy.

Sawiris is angry after being denied by the Canadian government to invest in the country and says he’s ready to take his money elsewhere. He called Ottawa’s decision “totally a farce because it’s just unimaginable.” The billionaire tycoon again echoed he regretted investing in Canada and says the lack of national security concern details provided by Ottawa is baffling:

“They don’t have anything specific to say,” according to Sawiris, referring to Canada’s citing of unspecified national security concerns. “They were very worried we could sue them. We spent millions of dollars to prepare [for the transaction],”

Africa’s ninth richest person, according to Forbes, says Ottawa should not have allowed the deal in the first place as both companies were “totally pre-cleared” for a deal to happen, even 136 days after the deal was announced.

Sawiris believes the the only national security concern link would be his ties to Orascom Telecom, where he is the chairman, as the latter has a 75 per cent stake in North Korea’s sole 3G cellular carrier, Koryolink, which launched in 2008.

Five years ago, “I still had the mobile licence in North Korea,” said Sawiris: “There is nothing new. Where does the national security threat come from now? The Cairo administration should send a letter to Canada to ask why an Egyptian guy is a threat to Canadian national security. I want to know.”

“Maybe they thought there was a link between North Korea and Egypt, and that Egypt was sending agents to spy on Canada” on behalf of North Korea, “like a James Bond movie,” said Sawiris, whom North Korea’s official news agency in 2011 reported met with the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to discuss business opportunities. “That’s their level of sophistication,” said Sawiris, referring to Canada’s government, which he said he puts on a par with China for its restrictions on foreign direct investment in its telecoms sector.

Again, Sawiris reiterates Canada’s wireless incumbents continue to lobby hard to prevent competition in the marketplace:

“The incumbents have enough muscle to prevent real competition in the market, and my advice for any foreign investors is not to waste their time investing in Canada. They change their laws for foreign investment, and then they block you.”

Sawiris did not call out Rogers, Telus and Bell specifically, but said they “again won through lobbying to push competition out of the market. They have a very easy arrangement and they don’t want anyone to disrupt the comfortable competitive environment they’re in.”

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • Groagun

    This is very serious and completely concerning. I do understand the conflicts and concerns that do arise from foreign investment but with no real concrete answers, it is rather suspect.

    Aside from the telco industry, many other sectors are challenged with foreign ownership laws and it seems at times, ever changing rules and interpretations.

    Protectionism clearly doesn’t work in the modern global economy and that, at times, is what Canada is practicing. While legitimate national security and ‘IP’ protection laws and enforcement need to exist and be applied, an open and thriving market is essential.

    Canada must be bold in it’s moves internationally and open for business when the world comes knocking. We have regressed in the last 10 years on several fronts and the world has noticed.

    From high ranking and elected officials from around the globe to CEO’s and business leaders, right down to the average man on the street, Canada does not hold the same ‘weight’ as it once did.

    It may not mean much of John Q Public doesn’t think of us but when Presidents, Chancellors and Prime Ministers don’t feel we should be at the table, that’s a huge problem: and don’t fool yourself, it’s happened and is happening right now!

    When the business community get’s ‘Wind’ of this story, what kind of reaction do you think it will receive? I’ve been in similar situations and have dealt with international investments and they do care what the story is. This story can do real damage to our economy now and in the future.

  • prickster

    Canada’s reputation is notoriuos when it comes to how tough it is for foreign business to come in and operate. Word HAS been out for a while now and that’s not good for Canadians as they are just being set up for another big 3 to rule other industries in the country

  • Farids

    ???? Wasn’t the Canadian government on the side of the little guys for the new bandwidth bidding? Or was it just the ultra big guy Verizon? And since Verizon is not coming, the government goes right back to being on the “Big 3’s” payroll. The government is right, Wind’s fair pricing and growth will be threatening the “security” of the big 3 “National” companies.

  • kronk86

    The problem stems from the fact that the majority of Allstream’s clients are big enterprise and government agencies. A whisper of a relationship with a country like North Korea would send even the most liberal politician running. This is also not a fight between the ‘Big 3’, this is strictly between Sawaris and the Minister of Industry…who seems to be making the rules up as he goes along.

  • Michael611

    I find interested with this topic.