By Adnan Hussein
Somali Foreign Affairs Minister Fowsiyo Yusuf Haji Aadan began her tour of several countries this week to document Somalia’s financial assets in foreign banks, as well as its commercial properties, embassies, aircraft and ships.
First on her agenda are trips to the United Arab Emirates, Italy and the United Kingdom.
“We will conduct an exceptional review of all of Somalia’s global assets in all of the continents and we will consult with Somali and foreign financial and legal advisors,” Aadan told Sabahi on December 27th. “The Somali government will demand the return of money held by the Swiss authorities as well as our ships and airplanes in Germany, Italy and Yemen.”
The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority has yet to reveal the breadth of the former Somali central government’s bank accounts or dealings between Swiss banks and prominent Somali figures whose assets were frozen.
Amid the chaos following the collapse of Somalia’s central government, some foreign governments froze official Somali government bank accounts to prevent their unauthorised use. However, many of the government’s physical assets abroad, including airplanes and former embassy buildings, have since been mismanaged or are unaccounted for.
According to a United Nations report leaked in July, mismanagement of public assets continued under the rule of the Transitional Federal Government, where 70% of revenue was lost through corruption, theft or waste. Much of this money is suspected to have been sent abroad.
Minister of Finance Mohamud Hassan Suleiman called on the international community to work with Somalia to help recover all of its assets.
“We will not hesitate to retrieve money that was illegally deposited in foreign accounts, including bank accounts of previous governments, and [stolen from] financial aid over the past two decades,” Suleiman told Sabahi. “We will organise a programme through which we will appeal to our Somali partners, including former finance officials, [to release] documents tracking those funds.”
In November, the Somali cabinet sent an official request to the UN Security Council for help with reclaiming funds and other assets from abroad.
Previous attempts to recover overseas assets
In December 2009, former President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed appointed former governor of the Central Bank of Somalia Ali Abdi Amalow as his financial adviser to recover hundreds of millions of dollars that were believed to have been deposited in foreign bank accounts by officials from previous governments over the past 21 years.
“The selection and appointment of Ali Amalow as an official for this portfolio was a serious, positive and important step, but the former president did not consult with the [regional administrations] of Puntland and Somaliland and did not obtain an official mandate for this issue since he was [not president of a permanent government],” said Idman Dahir Awale, a Somali financial researcher.
“The situation deteriorated further after he hired [US-based] law firm Shulman Rogers to act as a legal adviser and aid to the former governor of the Central Bank of Somalia,” he told Sabahi. The controversial deal would have given Shulman Rogers $50,000 and 3.5% of any Somali assets or financial aid they succeeded in recovering.