Indian origin businessman Sheikh Rafik Mohammed, who dropped out of school and went on to establish a multi-million dollar firm in Saudi Arabia, has been appointed a major general by Kyrgyzstan defence minister Ali Mirza.
Mohammed, who belongs to a village near Kozhikode in Kerala, studied only up to Class VII and left for the Middle East when he was in his twenties. He heads the Gammon Group, which has been chosen to develop Jazan industrial city in Saudi Arabia.
He was appointed a major general during an official ceremony held in Kyrgyzstan, Mohammed’s media adviser Omar Abu Baker told Khaleej Times. “It is a rare military position occupied by an overseas Keralite,” Baker said.
The Saudi-based entrepreneur was invited by the Kyrgyz government to take up the military position in view of his earlier contributions to the country.
It could not immediately be ascertained if the position was ceremonial or Mohammed would have any responsibilities as a major general.
Mohammed has Kyrgyzstan nationality that was conferred on him by former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Mohammed first met the Kyrgyz leader when he was in his twenties and working in Iran. He later went on to serve as an advisor to Bakiyev during 2005-10.
After developing a steel plant in Iran, Mohammed went to Kyrgystan and presented a similar project to Bakiyev, then a governor who was preparing to contest presidential elections. After getting elected, Bakiyev appointed Mohammed as an advisor.
According to Khaleej Times, Mohammed played a role in attracting foreign investment to Kyrgyzstan by suggesting easy tax regimes. He was later invited by Saudi Arabia to develop some projects on the free zone model of Dubai.
Gammon Group has a presence in emerging markets in Asia, Middle East, Europe and North Africa. The group has interests in infrastructure and petrochemicals. According to its website, it employs 200,000 people in 28 countries.