East Africa

Somalia court complicates tiff over seized UAE money


Summary

  • In Benadir, part of the capital Mogadishu, a regional court ruled on Sunday that the money seized in 2018 cannot be returned, even after the PM had ordered the Central Bank of Somalia to do so.
  • The decision raises questions about whether the court has the authority to make such orders. The money is being held by the Central Bank, a federal entity.
  • In a letter to the governor that was copied to several entities including the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) and PM Roble, it was claimed that the money entered Somalia by illegal means and should not be returned in an illegitimate way.
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By ABDULKADIR KHALIF


A regional court in Somalia has added fuel to a controversy on $9.6 million confiscated from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) just as Prime Minister Hussein Roble arrived in Abu Dhabi for his official maiden trip to the Gulf country.

In Benadir, part of the capital Mogadishu, a regional court ruled on Sunday that the money seized in 2018 cannot be returned, even after the PM had ordered the Central Bank of Somalia to do so.

The decision raises questions about whether the court has the authority to make such orders. The money is being held by the Central Bank, a federal entity.

The timing of the decision is also an issue. The money was seized in April 2018 after a plane landed at Aden Adde International Airport, with the cash reportedly meant for soldiers the UAE was helping train.

The Central Bank has kept the money since even as the public prosecutor’s office claimed it was investigating.

“The money will not be returned until investigations into the manner in which the money arrived in the country is completed,” said the court order.

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Tried to mend fences

In January, Mr Roble tried to mend fences with the UAE, whose relations with Somalia had deteriorated after the incident as Mogadishu warmed ties with Qatar instead.

Roble had promised the UAE ambassador that the government would return the money, which was seized by agents of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA).

“We are going to return the money seized in April 2018 to you (UAE) as soon as possible,” PM Roble remarked, apologising for the seizure.

However, the same day, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo ordered the Central Bank governor not to release the money.

In a letter to the governor that was copied to several entities including the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) and PM Roble, it was claimed that the money entered Somalia by illegal means and should not be returned in an illegitimate way.

On Sunday afternoon, Roble’s office issued a statement underlining that the PM and his delegation were warmly welcomed at Abu Dhabi International Airport and were expected to hold high-level talks with top officials.

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