The Somalia and Eritrea monitoring group uncovers a web of deceit and financial mismanagement

Opinion

By Mohamed F Yabarag

The Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, UN-SEMG, has finally published its much-awaited report on the Federal Government of Somalia’s (henceforth FGS) dubious and exclusive contract with Shulman Rogers, a US Law Firm, for the recovery of Somali national assets frozen overseas. Ironically, this is the same contract that triggered the abrupt resignation of Yusur AF Abrar, the former governor of the Central Bank of Somalia, barely a few weeks after her appointment to the post. As a conscientious person, Yusur smelt a rat and immediately rendered her resignation from afar, Dubai. In here resignation letter of 30th October 2013, Yusur Abrar stated, referring to Shulman Rogers contract: “From the moment I was appointed, I have been continuously asked to sanction deals and transactions that would contradict my personal values and violate my fiduciary responsibility to the Somali people as head of the nation’s monetary authority”. This is a damning indictment to President Mahmoud. People who were allegedly pushing her to sanction such dubious deals turned out to be none other than the President himself, together with his trusted former NGO colleague and former foreign minister, Fawzia Haji Adam.

For those who are familiar with the behavior and conduct of the current FGS on issues related to public finance management, it is business as usual. For the donor communities, however, the report is a bitter pill to swallow as they tried their level best, over the past few years, to make this government afloat and promised millions of dollars of development fund in Brussels only a few years back. Indeed, it is a huge disappointment that would make them think twice before they raise any more funding for President Mahmoud’s government, or for that matter for any future Somali governments. Most importantly, this is extremely a bad news for the Somali people in general as the donor community will not be so generous after this horrible fiasco. The Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group’s report also reveals an extensive network of corruption and financial malpractices at the very top of the FGS: the president, the discredited former foreign minister of Somalia, Fowzia Haji Adam, a number of shadowy and unscrupulous figures related to the Somali President and the former governor of the Central Bank of Somalia, Abdi Salam Haji Omar who, despite his initial resistance against Shulman Rogers’ predatory advances, eventually caved in under pressure. Indeed, the list of culprits is very long.

The UN-SEMG report further reveals the lack of accountability, transparency as well as the lack of separation of duties between the President and the Central Bank of Somalia. The investigations of the Monitoring Group also uncovered a web of deceit and a sinister ploy to fraudulently steal the nation’s assets stashed in foreign banks and institutions for personal purposes. Although the Central Bank of Somalia should be independent and take no instructions from the President as well as ministers in accordance with parliament bylaws, President Mahmoud had usurped the roles of the governor, the Board of Directors and that of the Minister of Finance. Literally, he has become the de facto governor of the CBS. Shadowy figures, who have no roles and responsibilities in the government, let alone in the CBS, but believed to have the tacit support of President Mahmoud were given an unprecedented authority as brokers to pursue the recovery of Somali assets located overseas since the collapse of the Somali state in 1991.

Whilst the former minister of Foreign Affairs in Somalia was the main facilitator in this deceitful endeavor to strip the nation off its valuable assets, the Minister of Finance whose job it is to manage the public finance, together with the entire Somali Parliament whose fiduciary duty it is to account for and protect the nation’s assets were kept in the dark. Whichever way you put it, this is a broad daylight robbery on the nation’s assets. No any other description fits President Mahmoud’s behavior in this terrible saga.

On 15 July 2013, under the direction of President Mahmoud, the Governor of the then Central Bank of Somalia, Abdu Salam H. Omer, signed an exclusive contract described by observers as shoddy deal with Shulman Rogers for the recovery of Somali national assets frozen abroad since the collapse of the last Somali government in 1991. According to the terms of the contract, Shulman Rogers would receive a fixed 5% of the value of funds or assets recovered. An additional 6% of any assets recovered will be retained by the law firm as part of undisclosed bonuses and expenses. This is a massive amount, a blank cheque if you like, that this impoverished country can ill-afford. And this is precisely why Jeremy Shulman, the main partner of the firm, was making all sort of accusations and innuendos against the UN-SEMG and its main coordinator, Mr. Jarat Chopra, in his poorly-attended press conference held on 12th August, 2014.

In the same press conference, Jeremy Shulman admitted the recovery of Somali assets in the tune of USD 33 million in which his firm had benefited immensely, without saying this of course in public. According to Jeremy Shulman, Around $12 million US dollars were deposited to a Turkish bank on behalf of the Central Bank of Somalia because there is no facility to hold such money in the bank’s Mogadishu headquarters.  The difference between the recovered money and the amount deposited in the aforementioned bank was unaccounted for, probably gone into the pockets of Shulman Roger, Ganjab, Amalo, and President Mahmoud’s large entourage of brokers. Conservative estimates put the Somali funds and assets frozen abroad in the range of USD 300-350 million, meaning that this US Law firm, Shulman Rogers, has gotten a niche market in a country abandoned by its people and whose leaders have become a ruthless hyenas feasting on its flesh. It seems Somalia has no one to turn for help right now.

Corruption and financial mismanagement was ubiquitous among the Somali top officials over the years. This is not a new phenomenon and will, unfortunately, continue for the foreseeable future. What is new, however, is the level, the scale and the manner such practices were conducted under the current government of Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud whose authority barely reaches beyond the bounds of the embattled capital of Somalia, Mogadishu. The President’s attempt to recover Somali national assets frozen abroad at this time, particularly when the country he runs is divided along antagonistic tribal regions is totally inconceivable and insensitive to say the least. In the absence of solid and transparent government institutions, including a properly regulated central bank, how could the recovered assets be divided among Somalia’s existing and emerging administrative regions such as  Puntland, Somaliland (still part of Somalia) and other autonomous regions? Will the proceeds of this scheme be spent entirely in Mogadishu and its immediate environs? Such a plan should have been at the bottom of the president’s priority list until the country is united again and at it ease with itself. But then again, this shows the mentality of the country’s top leaders and how bereft they are of the current Somali reality on the ground.

Conclusion

It is not the intention of this short piece to cover all the malpractices cited in the UN-SEMG report allegedly committed by the current government of Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and his partners. It simply draws the reader’s attention to go through the full report of UN-SEMG to enable to understand how this country is going from bad to worse and hopelessly at the mercy of ruthless, uncaring and corrupted officials who are simply sizing up their pockets for a big loot. What is revealed under UN-SEMG report is the tip of an iceberg of the continuing misappropriation and financial malpractices of President Mahmoud’s government. You look no further than the email exchanges and other correspondence between the man entrusted to lead the nation, the incumbent, his confidants by the name of Musa Ganjab and Abdul Aziz Amalo (and God knows how many more behind the scenes), his former foreign minister, Fawzia Haji Adam and  the law firm run by Jeremy Shulman to realize the depth of this massive heist on Somalia’s last remaining national assets stashed in foreign institutions. If the process of recovering Somali assets abroad continue at this pace, by the end of President Mahmoud’s tenure in office in two years’ time, there will be no more national assets abroad to recover. This brazen and fraudulent assault on the Somali assets is not only a resigning matter for President Mahmoud and his government, but it is a crime against Somali people who are yearning for a good governance like their counterparts elsewhere. In a country languishing at the bottom of all measurable benchmarks; divided along vicious tribal lines; dogged by clan-ism and cronyism; corruption and financial malpractices, the question on everyone’s lips is this: who will rightly point the finger of blame to the heisters of Somali assets without being called names?

Read the full report: Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring group on " PDF Format"

Mohamed F Yabarag
Email:myabarag@gmail.com

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