Does the international remittance company Dahabshiil finance terrorism? Are its anti-money laundering and counter-terror finance programs adequate? Here are 10 warning signs to keep in mind:
- Mohammed Sulaymon Barre, a Somali citizen and former Guantanamo Bay detainee, was alleged by U.S. officials to have worked in Osama bin Laden’s compound in Sudan in 1994 and 1995. He later worked at a Dahabshiil office in Pakistan before his detention. During a 2005 hearing at Guantanamo, a military judge told Barre, “I am convinced that your branch of the Dahabshiil company was used to transfer money for terrorism.” (Source: Washington Post).
- In early 2011, Somali music star and future member of Somalia’s parliament, Saado Ali Warsame, released a protest song entitled, “Dhiigshiil ha dhigan” (which translates as “Don’t Deposit with Dahabshiil” or “Don’t send your money through Dahabshiil”). The song called Dahabshiil a “blood-smelter,” “the enemy of Somalia,” and implored Somalis: “do not deposit your money” with Dahabshiil. (Source: Money Jihad)
- In late 2011, the Bell Pottinger public relations and lobbying firm cited its success in “manipulating Google rankings” on behalf of its client Dahabshiil to ensure that the Guantanamo Bay detainee story about Mohammed Sulaymon Barre didn’t appear on the first 10 pages of Google search results. (Source: The Independent)
- Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan were convicted in October 2011 on federal charges of providing material support to the terrorist group al-Shabaab. The indictment had alleged that “Ali and others acting at her direction transmitted funds to al-Shabaab through the hawala money remittance system” using Dahabshiil and other remitters. (Source: U.S. v. Amina Farah Ali)
- In December 2011, Minneapolis-based Franklin Bank and St. Paul-based Sunrise Community Banks ceased doing business with Somali hawala dealers and money transfer organizations including Dahabshiil over “concerns that the accounts put them at risk of violating federal rules designed to halt terror financing.” (Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune).
- The British banking giant Barclays announced its intentions to sever ties with Dahabshiil in 2013 over regulatory compliance and terror financing concerns. (Source: Associated Press.) Litigation ensued which delayed Barclays’s plans, but a deal to end their business relationship was finally reached in April 2014. (Source: Financial Times)
- In April 2014, U.S. Bancorp backed out of a long-planned deal with Dahabshiil after “an independent review of Dahabshiil and the inherent risk of doing business in Somalia.” (Source: American Banker)
- Danish regulators found Dahabshiil offices in Copenhagen, Kolding, Aalborg, and Aarhus to be “completely inadequate” in their compliance with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws in Denmark, and referred the case to police for further investigation in July 2014. (Source: Danish Financial Supervisory Authority)
- Somali news outlets reported in July 2014 that several Dahabshiil offices in Middle and Lower Juba were ordered by al-Shabaab to be closed after failing to make payments to al-Shabaab on time. (Sources: Radio Kulmiye, Shiniile News, and Dayniile)
- Merchants Bank of California announced this month that it is ending its Somali remittance services including Dahabshiil accounts amidst “concerns that some money could be making its way to Islamic militants.” (Source: KARE 11)
Dahabshiil denies all allegations of financing terrorism.