Posts Tagged ‘Somalia’

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Gulf charcoal purchases prop up al-Shabaab

July 7, 2014

Money Jihad has long reported on how al-Shabaab profits from Somalia’s charcoal smuggling business, particularly by charging a checkpoint tax authorized by Islamic law. A new report from the United Nations Environmental Programme and Interpol confirms that this activity is ongoing despite a UN ban against Somali charcoal exports, saying that “Al Shabaab retains about one third of the [charcoal] income, which alone constitutes about USD 38–56 million” annually.

A map in the report shows a key al-Shabaab tax checkpoint at Buulo Xaaji, main points of embarkation from Kismayo and Barawe, major delivery locations at Jizan (Saudi Arabia), Dubai and Sharjah (UAE), and Khasab (Oman), with additional deliveries in Egypt, Yemen, and Kuwait.

Somali charcoal exports

In addition to “normal” smuggling of charcoal from Somalia to the Gulf states, it is Money Jihad’s belief that rampant trade-based money laundering is occurring between al-Shabaab and these states in which wealthy Arabs are transferring funds to al-Shabaab through over-invoicing for charcoal purchased. In other words, terror financiers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are intentionally overpaying for Somali charcoal as a means of funding al-Shabaab without simple detection. The Gulf states are doing this to pursue larger strategic interests in Africa.

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Money and jihad: recommended reading

May 22, 2014
  • Boko Haram‘s rise to prominence might be explained by foreign funding to the tune of $70 million… more>>
  • Witness:  A mosque in Long Island funded a militant jihadist group called Supporters of Shariamore>>
  • Saynab Abdirashid Hussein perjured herself before a Minnesota grand jury about money she raised for jihad in Somalia. Her sentence? Just probation… more>>
  • CAIR is furious that banks have closed risky accounts with Iranian students in the U.S….more>>
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Road rage: Al-Shabaab taxes truckers $150 to $600 a month

May 5, 2014

Extortion by the Somali terrorist organization al-Shabaab against local corporations and merchants is commonplace.  That is part of the reason why it is so important that Western banks stick to their guns when they have moved to sever ties with Somali remittance companies.  It has become increasingly apparent that it is nearly impossible to do business in Somalia without enriching al-Shabaab.  The entire country needs to be completely fumigated by Kenyan and AMISOM forces.  Only after the al-Shabaab infestation has been exterminated can their business sector be rebuilt and foreign investment resume.

Thanks to El Grillo for sending in this from Horseed Media on Apr. 22

Somalia: Al Shabab increased tax on local Business

The group has already enforced the new tax in Galgaduud region (central of Somalia), residents say.

“…The local bus and lorry drivers have to pay $150 Us dollars a month, while the other drivers from other regions will pay $600 us dollars…” says one of the local residents who asked not to be named for security reasons. He added “… the local livestock traders are also forced to pay the tax…”

Al-Shabab has been driven out of major towns by a UN-mandated African Union force, but the group still controls many of the rural areas in south-central Somalia and regularly launch attacks that include bombs and guerrilla-style raids.

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Al-Shabaab financial news roundup

April 24, 2014

Thanks to all the tipsters who sent in these items:

» Kenyan police have identified two youth outreach coordinators in Mombasa who incite violence during sermons at mosques and offer who small signing bonuses for new al-Shabaab recruits.  (Hat tip to El Grillo)

» Also in Mombasa, Kenyan authorities are are investigating local businessmen for their role in trafficking weapons and recruiting fighters for al-Shabaab.  The businessmen have used up to 20 domestic and international banks to for their activities.  Officials are also monitoring Riyadh mosque in Nairobi, and Masjid Mujahideen (formerly known as Sakina mosque) and Masjid Shuhadaa (f.k.a. Masjid Musa) in Mombasa for their promotion of jihad in Somalia.

» Meanwhile in downtown Nairobi, a dozen shops are financing al-Shabaab and radical madrasas as well.  The shops are still in business.  Nobody in Kenya appears to have been arrested yet despite the fact that authorities have tipped them off.

» An Ethiopian member of parliament has pointed to a different culprit in fattening al-Shabaab’s portfolio–Egypt.   Egypt is spending money on weapons, indoctrination, and training for al-Shabaab according to the MP who says, “American taxpayers should demand answers from the Obama administration on why billions of their money is going to a country that funds terrorism in East Africa.”  Indeed.

» Barclays attempted to stop doing business with Dahabshiil over the Somali wire service’s lax money laundering and terror finance controls last year, but a court injunction forced their relationship to continue temporarily (despite reports that Dahabshiil pays $1 million to al-Shabaab annually).  Now Barclays and Dahabshiil have struck an agreement which will keep them in business together until Dahabshiil finds another bank to transfer its funds. (H/t Mean Kitteh)

» Foreign aid to Somalia has not been accurately accounted for, and has either been stolen or used or to fund militias, according to an investigative report.   The UAE sent $48 million in 2013 off-the-books, Qatar sent $25 million of which only $5 million was properly accounted for, and Iran sent $20 million in cash that was never deposited through official channels. The report revealed that “The diversion of public funds in Somalia is made easier by the fact that most Arab donors prefer to give their aid in cash.”   (H/t SomaliSijui)

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Interpol targets al-Shabaab’s charcoal smuggling

March 30, 2014

Finally. Action against al-Shabaab’s exploitation of the lucrative Somali charcoal trade is long overdue. Al-Shabaab exacts a 2½ percent tax at several stages of production from the point the charcoal leaves the kilns until it is loaded and shipped illegally to Persian Gulf buyers in contravention of a UN ban on the trade.

From Thomson Reuters on Mar. 27 (h/t El Grillo):

…“The al Shabaab-controlled charcoal trade is emerging as the new security threat facing the country’s biodiversity,” Henry Wafula, a district commissioner in eastern Kenya, said in an interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Charcoal worth more than 140 million Kenya shillings (about $1.7 million) is being shipped out of eastern Kenya illegally every month, Wafula said. The lucrative trade involves cutting down and burning mature trees, particularly in protected wildlife areas. The loss of trees reduces cover for wildlife and worsens soil erosion.

In 2013, the annual report of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia estimated that al Shabaab’s charcoal exports from eastern Africa could be as high as 24 million sacks per year, for an overall international market value of $360 to $384 million.

Laws passed by Kenya in 2013 impose tough punishments on illegal logging and related activities, but concern about al Shabaab’s possible use of charcoal trade revenue has drawn INTERPOL, the world’s largest international police organisation, into an alliance trying to stop the trade, though there is scant evidence it is used for terror-related operations.

“We have reports linking illegal charcoal trade in Eastern Africa to terrorist activities in the region. But this is not something governments are responding to,” David Higgins, of INTERPOL’s environmental crime programme, told a recent media briefing in Nairobi.

He did not give details of the activities, but said he has information, mainly from non-governmental organisations, that there are links between the charcoal trade and terror cells operating in the region.

INTERPOL began taking an interest in the charcoal trade soon after Kenya passed the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, which spells out penalties up to life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of logging, clearing land or setting fire to vegetation in protected wildlife areas…

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UN lifts sanctions on al-Shabaab entrepreneur

March 24, 2014

UN sanctions against al-Shabaab financier Ali Ahmed Nur Jim’ale have been lifted.  The UN did not offer any explanation for the removal from their sanctions list.  Last year the government of Somalia itself requested the removal, saying that Jim’ale “is innocent.”

The UN delisting notice lays out the grounds for the original sanctions.  It is difficult to read their dossier and come away with an impression of innocence…

Ali Ahmed Nur Jim’ale (Jim’ale) has served in leadership roles with the former Somali Council of Islamic Courts, also known as the Somali Islamic Courts Union, which was a radical-Islamist element.  The most radical elements of the Somali Islamic Courts Union eventually formed the group known as al-Shabaab.  Al-Shabaab was listed for targeted sanctions in April 2010 by the United Nations Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 concerning Somalia and Eritrea (the “Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee”).  The Committee listed al-Shabaab for being an entity engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Somalia, including but not limited to acts that pose a threat to Somali Transitional Federal Government.

According to the July 18, 2011 report of the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee’s Monitoring Group (S/2011/433), Jim’ale is identified as a prominent businessman and figure in the al-Shabaab charcoal-sugar trading cycle and benefitting from privileged relationships with al-Shabaab.

Jim’ale is identified as one of al-Shabaab’s chief financiers and is ideologically aligned with al-Shabaab.  Jim’ale has provided key funding and political support for Hassan Dahir Aweys (“Aweys”), who was also listed by the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee.  Former al-Shabaab Deputy Emir Muktar Robow reportedly continued to engage in political posturing within the al-Shabaab organization during the mid-2011.  Robow engaged Aweys and Jim’ale in an effort to advance their shared objectives and consolidate their overall stance within the context of the al-Shabaab leadership rift.

As of fall 2007, Jim’ale established a front company in Djibouti for extremist activities called the Investors Group.  The short term goal of the group was, through the funding of extremist activities and weapons purchases, to destabilize Somaliland.  The group assisted in smuggling small arms from Eritrea through Djibouti into the 5th region of Ethiopia where extremists received the shipment.  As of mid-2008, Jim’ale continued to operate the Investors Group.

As of late September 2010, Jim’ale established ZAAD, a mobile-to-mobile money transfer business and struck a deal with al-Shabaab to make money transfers more anonymous by eliminating the need to show identification.

As of late 2009, Jim’ale had a known hawala fund where he collected zakat, which was provided to al-Shabaab.

As of December 2011, unidentified donors from the Middle East were transferring money to Jim’ale, who in turn used financial intermediaries to send the money to al-Shabaab.

In 2009, Jim’ale worked with other like minded individuals to undermine the Somali TFG by not participating in Somali reconciliation efforts.  As of late 2011, Jim’ale actively supported al-Shabaab by offering free communications, use of vehicles, food aid and political advisement and set up fundraisers for al-Shabaab through various business groups.

The request by Somalia for the UN to lift sanctions on Jim’ale suggests that the Somali government has been compromised by the very elements which it purports to be at war with.  Just a couple years ago, Jim’ale was considered to be a security threat and an important al-Shabaab money man.  Suddenly he’s free to roam about Africa again.

The lifting of the sanctions, which included an international travel ban, enables Jim’ale to resume his travels back and forth between Somalia and Djibouti.  He holds passports with both countries.

For more on the cryptic UN delisting process, see prior Money Jihad coverage here and here.

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Somali terrorists demand $100K from residents

March 16, 2014

Money Jihad has noticed that articles in an important, independent Somali news organization have a tendency to disappear over time (either due to flaws in their website or due to the legal threats to which their ownership is subjected).  So information like this from Suna Times about al-Shabaab’s financing needs to be repeated on other websites like this blog in order to be preserved and disseminated more widely.

By the way, where would these poor townsmen get the money to meet al-Shabaab’s blackmail demands?  Through their own hard work and through the remittances they have received from relatives living in the West.  The remittances are stolen by al-Shabaab which fuels the cycle of violence.  Yet critics still wonder why Western banks would dare to shut down remittance services to Somalia.

From Suna Times on March 3, 2014:

Al-Shabaab demands money from locals in El-der, Galgadud region

Al-Shabaab militant group in El-der town of Galgadud region has compelled local residents to contribute money for the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group.

The militant group has reportedly ordered residents of the town to pay 100,000 USD to support its militant activities.

Al-Shabaab’s Galgadud leader, Hassan Yakub Ali ordered the community leaders to implement the order, according to several residents who spoke to Suna Times.

Ali askedresidents to evacuate the town and prepare to fight alongside the militant group against the AMISOM and Somali government forces in the region.

Reports say that the militant group has deserted several bases in the area following the announcement of the offensive.

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Recognizing the risks of Somali remittances

March 11, 2014

This piece is also appearing over at Terror Finance Blog today:

Last week, Bell State Bank in North Dakota announced that it would stop doing business with companies that remit money to Somalia.  The move follows decisions by Minnesota banks in 2011 to stop providing Somali remittance services, and an attempt by Barclays last year to cut off its partnership with Dahabshiil, a money transfer company with primary operations in Somalia.  The banks have been challenged in courts on both sides of the Atlantic, and advocacy groups have heavily criticized the banks’ decisions on humanitarian grounds.

Indeed, humanitarian considerations are of the utmost importance.  Unfortunately, money transferred to Somalia, particularly through Dahabshiil, all too often falls into the wrong hands and perpetuates the cycle of violence in Somalia.  Banks should stand fast in their original decisions, and here are five reasons why:

  1. The risks are real.  The frequency of cases involving Somalis in the West transferring funds to al-Shabaab over the last few years presents genuine concerns to financial institutions.  For instance, four men in California were found guilty last year of transferring money to al-Shabaab through Shidaal Express, a Somali hawala business.  Two Somali women in Minnesota were sentenced in 2013 for sending money to al-Shabaab through several remittance channels including local hawala dealers and Dahabshiil.  A Saudi-American was also indicted last year for wiring money to al-Shabaab.  In 2012, a man in London admitting transferring £8,900 to fighters in Somalia.  Danish intelligence revealed in 2012 that the equivalent of thousands of dollars a day is sent to terrorist organizations outside of Denmark—mostly to Somalia, and often unwittingly.  In addition to genuine risks on the ground in Somalia, Western banks have real reasons for concern that if they continue relationships with Dahabshiil, they could subsequently be fined by regulators at a future date if political winds change.  U.S. banks are surely aware, for example, that decisions on whether to fine, settle with, or prosecute banks with lax compliance programs have a great deal to do with the shifting political and prosecutorial priorities of whoever happens to be in charge at the Department of Justice and the financial regulatory agencies.  One official may take a very friendly view toward facilitating Somali remittances this year, but a different person will be calling the shots two years from now.
  2. The risks are not decreasing.  Gone are the days of 2012 when al-Shabaab appeared to be on the ropes in 2012 both financially and militarily.  Al-Shabaab was able to turn around its financial situation after the fall of Kismayo by cutting deals with occupying forces.  Al-Shabaab continues to profit from imposing taxes on commodities such as charcoal and sugar, and their role as ivory trade middlemen between poachers and buyers appears to be growing.  Al-Shabaab is still capable of carrying out devastating strikes such as the Westgate Mall attack and the recent assault against Somalia’s presidential palace that left 11 dead.
  3. Dahabshiil poses a unique risk.  Western readers should be aware of independent reports by the Somali diaspora news media that Dahabshiil finances terrorism.  According to reports by Waagacusub, Kalshaale, and Suna Times, Dahabshiil pays one-half million dollars twice a year to al-Shabaab. The payments allegedly resumed last year after a brief dispute during which Dahabshiil had ceased making payments.  One Guantanamo Bay detainee previously worked for Dahabshiil, and the presiding officer at a hearing for that detainee determined that his Dahabshiil branch transferred money for terrorism.  However, coverage of these allegations has been limited partly due from legal threats against journalists and online reputation management by Dahabshiil. Read the rest of this entry ?
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Fourth Somali sentenced in terror cash case

February 9, 2014

Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud, a taxi cab driver in California, has been sentenced to six years in prison for transferring funds overseas to the terrorist group al-Shabaab.  His fellow conspirators–another cabbie, an imam, and a hawala dealer–were sentenced to longer terms previously.

Money Jihad readers will recall that this case illustrates how the Somali remittance industry is fraught with the constant risk of funding al-Shabaab.  U.S. and British banks that have ceased doing business with Somali hawala houses like Shidaal Express, Qaran Financial Express, and wire services companies such as Dahabshiil, are well-justified if not required by anti-money laundering and know-your-customer requirements to sever such ties.  The humanitarian benefits of sending money to Somalia are far outweighed by the high probability that the money will be directed to, diverted by, or extorted for al-Shabaab to buy weapons and carry out operations that ultimately harm more Somalis than such money helps.

U-T San Diego reports (h/t Arun Hindu):

Final sentence in Somali terror case

By Kristina Davis, Jan. 31, 2014

SAN DIEGO — An Anaheim cabdriver who raised funds to aid terrorists in his war-torn homeland of Somalia was sentenced Friday to six years in prison, where he will join three other San Diego Somalis who were sentenced in the scheme two months ago.

Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud, 38, played the most minor role among the four men, said U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller.

Prosecutors say Nasir raised about $1,000 from other cabdrivers in Orange County to send to al-Shabab fighters, who are using violence to try to overthrow the East African country’s transitional government.

The fundraising was coordinated by Basaaly Moalin, a San Diego taxi driver in contact with al-Shabab overseas.

Moalin, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was given 18 years in prison — the longest term — when he was sentenced in November.

Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, who used his influence on the local Somali community as a City Heights imam, got 13 years. Issa Doreh, who worked at a money transfer business the men used, received 10 years.

The men have already served three years and will be required to serve at least 80 percent of their terms.

Even though Nasir’s role was minor, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Cole said in court that Nasir and Moalin were talking about real people’s lives when it came to what the money would be used for.

“It was a serious offense,” Cole said.

Nasir and Moalin met years earlier in St. Louis, where Nasir had moved to work as a cabdriver, said his lawyer, Thomas Durkin. They then moved to California, where they could make more money…

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How al-Shabaab controls the ivory trade

January 20, 2014

Marauders in eastern Kenya poach for ivory.  The ivory is bought by brokers who arrange for transport of the merchandise with al-Shabaab through Somalia.  Al-Shabaab exports the ivory from the Somali coast to the illicit world market.

Inter Press Service reports (h/t El Grillo):

…In 2012 and 2013 alone, nearly 60,000 elephants and over 1,600 rhinos were illegally killed for their tusks.

The driving force behind this practice is clearly the significant money that can still be made from these products. According to expert estimates, a rhino horn is worth 50,000 dollars per pound on the black market, more than the value of gold or platinum.

This, activists say, makes poaching very hard to resist.

“Most people know that this is wrong, but you need to make a distinction between poacher and poacher,” Andrea Crosta, the executive director of Elephant Action League (EAL), a U.S.-based group that fights poaching and illegal trafficking, told IPS.

“On one end, you have the poor local tribesman with no job who just needs the money. On the other, you have the organised criminal gangs, with weapons and money, who are able to bribe rangers and get their information.”

Crosta says a pair of tusks can be worth a few years’ salary in many African countries.

“To someone with no job and a large family to feed, that’s a lot of money,” he says. “They know it’s wrong, but the temptation is just too strong.”

Together with a team of EAL members, Crosta spent much of 2010 to 2012 investigating poaching in East Africa. According to their findings, large quantities of ivory were getting into Somalia in a systematic, organised way.

Later, they discovered this process was being run by Al-Shabaab.

“We were undercover, pretending to be researchers and zoologists, and that way we were able to speak with small and big traders, poachers and middlemen,” Crosta, who is currently based in the Netherlands, told IPS.

His team was able to unveil an undercover trafficking system that saw between one and three tonnes of ivory getting into Somalia, facilitated by Al-Shabaab, every month…

The Elephant Action League has previously reported that, “Shabaab has been actively buying and selling ivory as a means of funding their militant operations,” and that Kenyan ivory brokers prefer working with al-Shabaab middlemen because of their organizational skills and efficiency.  Moreover, “the terrorist group pays better than average prices (U.S. $200 per kilogram in 2011-2012), making them desirable buyers of illicit ivory from small-time brokers.”

See previous Money Jihad coverage of ivory-funded terror here and here.

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Tracking terror finance and government follies: recommended reading

January 16, 2014
  • The recent designation by the Treasury Department of an Al Qaeda financier neglects to mention that he and his organizations have consorted with Yusuf Qaradawi, spiritual father of the Muslim Brotherhood… more>>
  • New details on the sanctioned Saudi billionaire in Turkey and the cover-up by Recep Erdoğan… more>>
  • Government forces the financial sector to do the lion’s share of work in screening for laundered or terrorist funds, but government doesn’t really want to hear financial institutions’ ideas on how the process could be improved, says industry analyst Tom Keatinge… more>>
  • Monitoring compliance with government financial regulations in a war zone in another continent is easy, right?  One expert explains why it isn’t, and how a UK court got it wrong on Dahabshiil… more>>
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