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US lifts sanctions on Somalia firm accused of funding terrorism

Thursday February 13 2020

US President Donald Trump 

US President Donald Trump. PHOTO | JIM WATSON | AFP 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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The US government has officially lifted sanctions on Somalia’s group of companies that had been fingered for allegedly sponsoring terrorism activities.

Al-Barakat is a conglomeration of firms that deal in informal money transfer services known as Hawala, telecom and internet services as well as logistics.

It was banned by the US Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) in November 2001.

On Thursday, the US Treasury announced it had deleted the group 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 sanctions on the group, could be a result of lobbying by humanitarian organisations.

ECONOMY

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Al-Barakat argued that 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 somewhat 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.

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 later lifted the sanctions, finding insufficient evidence to pin it to terror groups.

The company regrouped in 2014, relaunching its Hawala system.