US lifts sanctions on Somali group of companies

Thursday February 13 2020

Money transfer.

The US has lifted sanctions on Somali group of companies, Al-Barakat, which dealt in informal money transfer services. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
More by this Author

The US government has officially lifted sanctions on a Somali group of companies that had been accused of sponsoring terrorism activities.

Al-Barakat, a conglomeration of firms that dealt in informal money transfer services known as hawala and also dealt in logistics, telecom and internet services, had been banned by the US Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) since November 2001.

But on Thursday, the US Treasury announced it deleted al-Barakat from the list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN), which lists companies and individuals deemed to have supported terrorist activities.

The move, which comes nearly nine years since the UN Security Council lifted its own sanctions on the group, could be a result of various lobbying by humanitarian organisations.

Al-Barakat had argued its services sustain the Somali economy by helping thousands of Somali diaspora to send money home to relatives.

Formed in the late 1980s, the company sort of worked to sustain Somalia’s informal economy, in the absence of a central bank or a recognised government, helping send in about $140 million a year.

Advertisement

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 bombings in the US, however, Washington imposed sanctions on al-Barakat, barring its agents in the US or anywhere else in the world from helping remit money. Much of the company shut down.

The UN would later lift sanctions on the group, finding insufficient evidence to pin it to terror groups.

Al-Barakat regrouped in 2014, relaunching its hawala system.

Advertisement