Garowe (PP News Desk) — In September 2020, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime published a report on the link between Somali money transfer companies and the illegal arms trade.

The Central Bank of Somalia subsequently investigated Amal Express, Dahabshiil, Iftin Express and Taaj, the money transfer companies GI-TOC accused of facilitating money laundering and wiring money to proscribed persons and has since absolved the four Somali money transfer firms.

The four Somali money transfer companies targetted by GI-TOC.

Jay Bahadur, the author of the GI-TOC paper, used a tweet to describe the Somali Central Bank audit as “a pile of rubbish … stage-managed by Amal [Express] in Bosaso”.

In the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime paper Bahadur is described as “an independent researcher and investigator based in Nairobi.”

An irreverent tweet by the author of the GI-TOC report

In his Twitter handle Bahadur summarises his affiliation thus: Currently@GI_TOC.

Flimsy Data

Bahadur acknowledges Peter Kirechu, identified in the report as a third-party researcher who provided “data on hundreds of MTO remittance transactions from Somalia to Yemen between 2014 and 2020. This data forms the crux of GI-TOC’s present study.”

Kirechu is the former director of the Conflict Finance and Irregular Threats Program at the Center for Advanced and Defense Studies (C4ADS), an organisation whose board is chaired by Dr. Richard Wirt, the former Chief Technology Officer for In-Q-Tel, a CIA-funded venture capital firm.

Jay Bahadur: “A man on a mission to discredit Somali money transfer companies”.

Bahadur, a former Coordinator of the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, does not state how Kirechu acquired the data in question.

Key findings in the paper include procedures used by Somali money transfer companies to ensure that money does not get wired to a blacklisted person, and the use of multiple SIM cards by some customers particularly those in Southern Yemen alleged to be have facilitated illegal selling of arms sent to Somalia.

Bahadur had access to UN data but opted for using questionable data from a “researcher”. Bahadur also offered to share the data with the Somali Central Bank.

Mohamed Haji Ingiriis is a GI-TOC expert.

“The Central Bank was right to refuse Bahadur’s data-sharing offer. Only the money transfer companies have access to transactions data. Since Bahadur was commissioned by an NGO that uses ‘civil society’ as a cover, he risks being accused of aiding and abetting an unauthorised use of company’s data” said Adan Ali, a financial data security expert in Nairobi.

Opaque Organisational Structure

GT-IOC was founded in 2013, with funds from the Government of Norway and the Government of Switzerland.

It identifies itself as “an independent civil-society organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with a globally dispersed Secretariat and a high-level advisory board.”

By its very nature a civil society organisation is based in country and should not depend on state support. A civil society does not carry out security-related investigations.

GT-IOC has a network of “prominent law-enforcement, governance and development practitioners who are dedicated to seeking new and innovative strategies and responses to organized crime”. Mohamed Haji Ingiriis, a Somali academic, is listed in its website as an “expert”.

“GT-IOC is, however,  probably a front organisation for countries that fund it. A list of experts does not give the organisation the privilege to claim its members are civil society organisations” said Dahir Aw Hassan, a retired UN worker in Garowe.

The GT-IOC website does not contain information on its backers. “Jay Bahadur is on mission to discredit Somali companies” he added.

This article first appeared in the © Puntland Post, 2021 and is republished with permission

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