Posts Tagged ‘Eritrea’

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$73 million collected for “families of martyrs”

December 2, 2014
modern day tax stamp

Document:  Eritrean diaspora tax receipt for 47,000 Swedish crowns

A 2 percent “diaspora tax” continues to be demanded by Eritrean embassies and consulates of Eritrean citizens living abroad as a precondition for receiving diplomatic services. Proceeds from the extortionist tax, which is collected in violation of international consular law, go to “to support the war disabled and the families of martyrs,” pursuant to a proclamation passed in Eritrea in 1994.

A November 2014 report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea described and confirmed ongoing cases of blackmail used to collect the tax in Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and Sweden; Money Jihad has previously reported that the taxes are collected in Kenya, Britain, and Israel as well. The UN report further revealed that the diaspora tax generated $73 million revenues from 2010 through 2013.

UN Resolution 2023 condemned Eritrea’s diaspora tax in 2011. Sweden recently considered a legal ban against Eritrea’s collection efforts, but determined that Eritrea could continue imposing the tax as long as no threats or coercion are used for collection.

Any Eritrean living abroad who is coerced, threatened, or denied diplomatic services from their embassy or consulate should report it to law enforcement in the country where they reside. However, this is somewhat unlikely to occur because expatriate Eritreans are fearful about retaliation by the government of Eritrea against their families back home.

© Text copyrighted 2014 by Money Jihad. Blog URL: moneyjihad.wordpress.com. Any unauthorized reproduction, duplication, or retransmission of this post without the express written consent from Money Jihad is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided that full and clear credit is given to Money Jihad with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Another Eritrean embassy engages in extortion

January 10, 2014

It happens in Kenya, Canada, Britain, and, according to a new report, in Israel as well.  Eritrean diplomats carry out the dirty work of the dictatorship back home by forcing Eritreans living abroad to pay an illegal tax.

That tax funds the dictatorship and the al-Shabaab terrorist organization it supports.

Not only is the use of ambassadors and consuls to collect such a tax a violation of international consular law, but this latest case represents a violation of an Israeli law that caps foreign remittances.

The Eritrean embassy instructed Eritreans in Israel to remit their tax payments to a bank in Frankfurt, Germany, for follow-on transfer to Eritrea.

It’s become clear that Eritrean embassies really don’t help ordinary Eritreans who have attempted to make better lives for themselves abroad.  The “diplomats” are regime henchmen, fomenting strife within and extortion against the communities which they are supposed to serve.  The ultimate beneficiary is the repressive regime in Eritrea and its al-Shabaab partner.

From the Jerusalem Post, with a tip of the hat to El Grillo:

Eritrean Embassy offering advice how to make illegal money transfers

By BEN HARTMAN

12/23/2013 02:44

Migrants make claims day after brawl involving dozens of Eritrean regime opponents and supporters at Kibbutz Kinneret.

The Eritrean Embassy in Israel is advising migrants in Israel how to transfer money back to Eritrea through a bank account in Germany, contrary to Israeli law, which forbids such transfers, a group of Eritrean migrants said at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

The migrants called the press conference the morning after a brawl involving dozens of regime opponents and supporters at an event organized by the embassy at Kibbutz Kinneret on Saturday, in which over a dozen people were wounded and around 15 arrested. They said that the embassy gave instructions to migrants about how to transfer money and also advertised real estate in Eritrea, telling them that it was a good opportunity for them to build a house back in their home country.

A law passed earlier this year makes it illegal for African migrants to transfer money out of Israel to their home country, and assigns stiff penalties to people found breaking this law, or Israelis found helping Africans wire money home.

The law stipulates that the transfer must be less than the minimum wage in Israel divided by the number of months the person has been in the country.

There were several hundred migrants taking part in the press conference on Saturday, activists in Tel Aviv said Sunday. They said a group of around 60 regime opponents arrived and were accused of being “Ethiopian instigators” by ambassador Tesfemariam Tekeste, at which time the say they were attacked.

The regime supporters and the ambassador said they were peacefully holding the meeting when they were set upon by Eritrean men wielding sticks and throwing rocks, with some wielding knives and screwdrivers.

At the press conference in an events hall near the Tel Aviv central bus station, regime opponents showed a pamphlet they say was being handed out by regime supporters at the event the previous day, which showed details of a bank called “Commerzbank” in Frankfurt. The pamphlet included a Swift code and details for transferring money through the German bank to the Housing and Commerce Bank of Eritrea, where they were told to specify that the money was meant for the “Urban Development Eritrea – Housing Project 2013.”

For unclear reasons, the pamphlets were in English, not Tigrinye.

The Eritrean government requires citizens in the diaspora to pay a monthly tax in order to retain their passport and that tax as well as money sent home by citizens outside the country are major sources of revenue for the Eritrean government…

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Eritrean tells of $30K ransom for captive cousin

October 27, 2013

The BBC has interviewed yet another Eritrean with a tragic story to tell about Islamist (or as the BBC calls them, “tribal”) kidnap-for-ransom schemes being conducted against hapless refugees trying to make across Sinai to a better world in Israel.

His cousin was burned, raped, and was only released after extended relatives were able to meet a ransom demand of $30,000—a big amount anywhere, but especially exorbitant for that part of the world.

The interview doesn’t get into it, but the ransom money from these kidnappings is often used to purchase weapons for Hamas.

Listen—it’s just a one-minute clip:

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Eritrean Britons swept into diaspora tax dragnet

August 13, 2013

Just like Eritreans in Canada and Kenya.  In violation of international law, the tax on Eritreans living abroad helps fund the repressive dictatorship in Eritrea and helps fund al-Shabaab terrorists, too.  Thanks to Raphael and Aisha for sending this in from the International Business Times:

Eritreans living in the UK are being forced by their own government to pay a “diaspora tax” that ultimately funds the secretive country’s network of influence in the Horn of Africa, including supporting the al-Shabaab group of militants in Somalia, an IBTimes UK special investigation has uncovered.

The collection of a 2% income tax on Eritrean nationals living abroad violates UN resolution 2023 (2011) which condemns Eritrea’s use of the tax to “destabilise the Horn of Africa region and to violate the sanctions regime”. Some of the money is used to procure weapons for armed opposition groups.

The UN Security Council hardened sanctions against Eritrea in December 2011 over its alleged support for Islamist militant groups such as Somalia’s al-Shabaab…

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Eritrea collecting illegal tax in Canada

June 11, 2013

The repressive government of Eritrea imposes a 2 percent income tax on Eritreans living abroad.  Eritrea uses revenues from the tax for operations of its ruling party, payouts to the terrorist group al-Shabaab, and to buy weapons for potential use by Eritrea against Ethiopia.  The tax is usually collected by Eritrean diplomats in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Canada told the Eritrean consulate in Toronto to stop the tax collections last year.  The consulate agreed in writing, but CBC reports that the Eritrean consul is still personally soliciting tax payments.

In an article accompanying the video report, CBC offers further detail:

…The regime relies on diaspora cash for hard currency. But according to the UN, it also uses its money to support armed rebels opposing Ethiopia, and others with ties to the notorious al-Shabaab movement in Somalia.

Because of Eritrea’s destabilizing role in the troubled Horn of Africa, the UN imposed sanctions on the country in 2009, hoping to choke off its access to arms and money.

Canada later adopted them, meaning those who pay are violating UN sanctions and may also be breaking Canadian law according to past reports.

Through it all, the consul has not been shy about his country’s intention to keep collecting cash no matter how Canada views it…

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Kidnapped for ransom: ex-hostages describe melted plastic, electrocution sessions

May 2, 2013

Freed captive:  “Death would have been a relief”

Grisly report from Sinai mortician:  corpses from Bedouin kidnappers always show signs of torture to get their families to pay ransoms

Thousands of dollars are demanded for each Eritrean kidnapped as they attempt to cross borders in search of a better life.  When the tribes, terrorists, and criminal syndicates that abduct them don’t get the money they demand, they begin torturing their victims.  In some cases, they do this even while the victim’s families are forced to listen on the telephone.

Please listen to just five minutes from this BBC radio report (sound begins after a few seconds):

The human tragedy is the most shocking element of this story, but keep in mind the equally dangerous result of how kidnappers use ransom money to help buy weapons and perpetrate further acts of violence or terrorism.

The BBC’s Mike Thomson has since followed up with this additional report worth listening to.

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Hamas funded by slave and organ trade

March 24, 2013

Sudanese and East African flesh peddlers aligned with Hamas terrorists are ransoming captives and engaging in the trade of human organs to buy weapons for jihad.  This information does not come from right-wing Cassandras, but from CNN’s own correspondent in Berlin, Frederik Pleitgen.

The wages of this shameful trade are $35 million annually, says Pleitgen, in a completely overlooked but significant piece entitled “Human trafficking in the Sinai: to fight it we need to know it,” last month on the human rights webpage EveryOne.  Here are some of his most salient points:

  • Eritrean and Sudanese human traffickers continue kidnapping Eritrean refugees for ransom.
  • Every refugee kidnapped by the traffickers means roughly 20,000 dollars for armed fundamentalism. The turnover of trafficking is around $35 million per year. The Sudanese President, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, has acknowledged the role of the Rashaida tribe in the slave and organs trade…”
  • “Some of the major traffickers, including Abu Ahmed and Abu Khaled, have declared in interviews reported in the media, to be part of Hamas. In Sudan, through this massive fundraising activity focused on the abduction and sale of human beings, they are preparing the future stages of the war against the “infidels,” Western culture and the State of Israel.”
  • “[T]he Kalashnikovs in possession of Hamas militants are bought with profits from the slave and human organs trade.”

Read Pleitgen’s full piece here, and earlier Money Jihad coverage on this subject here.  Thanks to Twitter user @meankitteh1 for suggesting fresh coverage of the role of human trafficking in financing terrorism.

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African refugees kidnapped to fund militants

November 25, 2012

Sudanese and Eritrean refugees are being abducted by Bedouin gangsters for exorbitant ransoms.  Human rights activists refer to the ongoing terror campaign as “the world’s forgotten hostage crisis.”  Surely, the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt will do something to put a stop to this racket within their own borders, right?  Don’t hold your breath.

The Atlantic (h/t @ChallaHuAkbar) has the latest this overlooked crime spree:

CAIRO — Memories of torture still haunt 17 year-old Ksamet five weeks after she was released from a small, underground room where Bedouins held her captive for two months in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. She was repeatedly raped, beaten, and burned as family and friends abroad raised money for her $25,000 ransom. “They tortured us almost every day,” Ksamet, from Eritrea, said through an interpreter. “And every week, if we didn’t pay, they’d torture us even more.”

The young woman is one of hundreds of Africans who have been held against their will in the lawless region that borders Israel, often severely abused and largely ignored by the international community. Bedouin are holding over 1,000 people, and Egyptian police are detaining 500 more, according to Meron Estefanos, a Sweden-based Eritrean activist and radio presenter who has spoken to hundreds of Eritreans held hostage in the Sinai.

The steady flow of people north through the Sinai has taken place since 2006 and initially consisted mainly of Sudanese migrants paying to be smuggled to economic opportunities in Israel. In 2008, many Eritreans seeking asylum in Israel started to come, too. The vast majority were trying to escape poverty and conscription under an oppressive dictatorship where indefinite national service is mandatory for most — frequently into their 40s and 50s. Legally leaving the country is nearly impossible…

While many Eritreans taken hostage in the Sinai had paid smugglers to take them to Israel, more and more of those held hostage over the past three years never even had a desire to go there. Many have been kidnapped in or around refugee camps in Sudan and Ethiopia or on Sudan’s borders — or sold by rogue smugglers or corrupt Sudanese border guards — and brought to Sinai where Bedouin extort them for cash. “I had no intention of going to Israel,” said Ksamet, who left behind two sick parents after the military drafted her. “I wanted to go to Khartoum.”

Instead, her and her fiancé, who was also fleeing military service, made it just across the border to Kassala, a city in eastern Sudan only a dozen miles from Eritrea. But after four days there, her smugglers — whom she had paid about $3,300 — sold her to members of the Rashaida tribe of Eritrea and Sudan, notorious for trafficking people and weapons up the Red Sea coast. Ksamet’s fiancé ran free before they could get ahold of him. “I still don’t know where he is,” she said.

Hostages report being subjected to electrocution, burned with molten plastic, beaten with chains and rods, hung by their hair, and threatened with organ harvesting, among other torture methods, according to refugee-aid groups and activists. Sexual abuse ranges from rape and the burning of genitalia to sodomy with heated objects — even to children.

Eritrean villages sometimes sell off homes, livestock, and jewelry to free relatives from the kidnappers; ransoms can reach $50,000. The Bedouin put their captives on the phone with family in the diaspora, beating them so their relatives hear them scream as they plead for help.

The Bedouin hold them for months on average, and many people do not survive. Dumped corpses litter the desert, with 4,000 dead over past five years, according to a September report Estefanos co-authored through Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, and Europe External Policy Advisors, a research center in Brussels. “The treatment has gotten to a level where they would rather die than live,” said an employee at a refugee-aid organization in Cairo.

Those raising money often pool funds to free women and children first. Ksamet was one of three women in a group of 14 that also included children. “I was the only woman left” after the other two paid their ransom, Ksamet said. “So they prioritized me.” Often even when the ransom is met, activists say, the Bedouin merely collect the money and sell their human haul on to the next group of kidnappers, ensuring more rounds of beatings and begging…

What the article doesn’t detail, like many other news reports on the subject, is what exactly the Bedouin do with the money they receive.  But according to a Guardian article earlier this year, the beneficiaries of the human trafficking and weapons trafficking program are “Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.”  A separate AP report suggested that Sinai militants may use the money for cross-border attacks against Israel.

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Eritrea embassy in Kenya pays jihadists

September 13, 2011

A follow-up from the U.N.’s monitoring group’s report on the Horn of Africa has crossed our path.  According to this article from the East African on Aug. 7, Eritrea is an active state sponsor of al-Shabaab’s terror, and it uses its embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, to distribute funds to jihadi operatives:

The bad boy of the Horn of Africa: How Eritrea’s strongman uses Kenya as a terror finance hub

In early July, as Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki headed to Addis Ababa to chair a meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), a six-country partnership formed to address issues of drought, security and development in the Horn of Africa, he sounded a stern warning to Eritrea.

For Kibaki, a president who is not known for his love of dramatic public gesture, to adopt a hostile posture against another country, there must have been more to the issue than the government was revealing to the public.

In March, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi — whose country has a strong security partnership with Kenya — had also warned that his government would use “all possible means” to depose Eritrea’s 67-year old strongman Isaias Afewerki, with whom he had fought a bloody secessionist war that killed 70,000 people between 1998 and 2000.

However, with the release of the UN Monitoring Group report on Somalia and Eritrea last week, it is now becoming clearer why Afewerki has gained the reputation of the bad boy of the Horn of Africa, a pariah state under international sanctions for sponsoring terrorism in the region.

While Eritrea has in the past been repeatedly accused of supporting Somalia’s Islamist militia Al Shabaab, a charge it strenuously denies, the current report catalogues Afewerki’s growing notoriety in the world of terrorism finance, and in particular the global web through which these funds are routed, with Kenya serving as a global transaction distribution hub.

The report details the country’s activities in funding the terror group, following the money trail from its citizens in the diaspora in Europe and North America, through Dubai and the Eritrean embassy in Nairobi, and into the hands of Al Shabaab, all the while concealed in convoluted and opaque informal financial networks.