In November 2021, I was approached by Saleh Shaflout a Saudi Aramco employee who works as a Dispute Resolution PMOD (https://sa.linkedin.com/in/saleh-shaflout-pmp-432526107), who proposed a business partnership to me. The purpose of the partnership was to establish Beauty Elite Commercial Co. in Saudi Arabia, which would have exclusive distribution rights for pet care products such as shampoos, conditioners, dental water, and face creams. As a freelance business consultant, I had worked with Saleh on previous projects, and trusted him enough to invest $60,000 in the company.
Saleh Bin Ali Shaflout and his brother Mohammad Bin Ali Shaflout in the first meeting with the supplier held in Mövenpick Hotel Amman, Jordan – May 27th 2022.
Beauty Elite Commercial Co. (https://beautyelite.co), was officially founded in May 2022, and we began activities shortly thereafter. My role in the company was CEO, but Saleh appointed himself as the Chairman and Board President, giving him all the power to overcome any objections I had. Although we had agreed that he would only support the company financially and in terms of strategies if needed, in time, he started to interfere with day-to-day business activities, which wasn’t supposed to happen based on our initial agreement. This interference affected the outcome of many misguided decisions the company took, ultimately leading to its failure.
During the partnership, I wired money to the supplier to have the products shipped, as well as to Saleh’s brother’s bank account to cover company expenses since the company didn’t have an official bank account at the time. As soon as I ran out of money, Saleh decided to kick me out of the company, promising that he would return everything I had spent. However, I never received a dime back.
An overview of some of the transactions that took place from my personal account during (July – September) 2022.
There were several red flags that arose during the partnership with Saleh, one thing was his interference in day-to-day activities which as against our agreement once we established the company. He also tended to be nicer and more friendly when it came to covering company expense when most of the time, he appeared inflexible. A major red flag I remember is that one day I went to the company on a Saturday which was not an official working day, only to find صالح شفلوت and Belal Abulkher (our Sales Manager employed by Saleh) holding a meeting together which Saleh didn’t inform me about. In addition to that, one particularly concerning issue was that Saleh appeared to favor the opinions of Belal over those of our Marketing Manager. At a later stage, it became clear that his opinion preference was based on our Marketing Manager’s gender who was a female at the time, which is an unfortunate consequence of gender segregation policies in Saudi Arabia. All of these red flags should have served as warning signs, but I trusted Saleh and didn’t think much of them at the time.
After being scammed out of my investment, I was left with nothing. Saleh had kicked me out of the company, and I only had $300 in my pocket. This had a significant impact on my finances and my family, as I was unable to send money back home to my wife and two children.
Adding insult to injury, I found out that Saleh was still working at Saudi أرامكو, a giant oil company in Saudi Arabia, as a Dispute Resolution PMOD. Saudi Aramco is the largest oil company in the world, accounting for almost 10% of global crude oil production, and it’s known for its strict ethical and compliance policies. I wondered how someone in Saleh’s position could work at such a reputable company and also deceive me out of my investment.
Unfortunately, there were legal obstacles preventing me from taking action against Saleh. One major issue was the Saudi investment policies, which made it difficult for non-Saudis like myself to approach the Saudi market without a Saudi partner at the time. Despite my best efforts to comply with these regulations, it was still a challenge to find a trustworthy and reliable Saudi partner. Furthermore, the regulations at the time didn’t allow for individual Saudis to have partnerships with non-Saudi individuals like myself. This created significant limitations and hurdles for my business approach in Saudi Arabia as a non-Saudi individual. Additionally, although I had bank transactions and other evidence, none of it could be officially linked to the company in the eyes of a court. This made it impossible for me to take legal action against Saleh, as I had no way to prove my investment in the company.
This experience has greatly affected my views on business partnerships and trust in business relationships. It has taught me to be more cautious and to thoroughly investigate any potential partners before entering into a business partnership or investment. My advice for others considering entering into a business partnership or investment is to ensure that all agreements are clearly documented and agreed upon by all parties involved. Additionally, it’s crucial to thoroughly vet potential partners and to never trust blindly without investigating.
In conclusion, my experience with Saleh Shaflout and Beauty Elite Commercial Co. was a painful one. The partnership started out with great promise, but ultimately ended in disappointment and financial loss. While I may not be able to recover my investment, I hope that sharing my story will serve as a cautionary tale for others looking to enter into business partnerships or investments especially in the Saudi market.