Al-Shabaab infiltrates Somalia's banking systems, invests in real estate
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants have infiltrated the financial sector in the Horn of Africa nation, the United Nations has said, in a report which exposes the weak security in the country, which has been struggling to contain the insurgency for the last 14 years.
Al-Shabaab has previously been linked to infiltration in the government especially the security forces, a claim which President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has often denied, accusing his opponents of fueling propaganda, which aims at wrecking his administration.
“The Shabab, the Somalia-based militant group that is Al Qaeda’s most powerful ally in Africa, is not only collecting millions of dollars in tariffs and payoffs but moving the money through local banks and even investing it in real estate and businesses," reads the report in part.
The report comes almost seven months after a group of businessmen from Mogadishu claimed that the militants were slowly taking control of the capital during a press statement in Nairobi. According to them, the government was watching as the militants brutalized their businesses in the country.
And the UN seems to corroborate the claims by the elders, adding that the Port of Mogadishu is almost under control of the militants, who have been collecting money in form of taxes. The businessmen are threatened and sometimes brutalized by the militants when they refuse to pay Zakat.
“The Shabab also have penetrated Mogadishu’s port, blackmailing importers to pay a levy on goods, the report said. In all the cases the report documented, business owners paid up, citing threats and violence if they refused.”
The UN observed that the militants have been storing and transferring money through accounts ran in local banks in the country. The money, the report adds, is used in investing in the real estate within and outside the country.
“Al-Shabab’s use of formal banking systems enables the immediate transfer and distribution of large amounts, including in areas it no longer directly controls, eliminating the risk of physically transporting cash across hostile territory.”
Over a 48-hour period in May, more than $322,000 was transferred from these two accounts to a third bank account, the report said, showing “an institutional link between the accounts and an organized approach to the distribution of funds".
Rashid Abdi, an analyst on the Horn of Africa affairs, notes that the team has been collecting money and channeling it through various banks within the country including the capital Mogadishu, where the militants seem to be gaining control.
“Shabab extremists have entrenched financial stakes across Somalia, including in Mogadishu, the capital. “It’s no longer an insurgency but an economic power,” he says.