updated 4:01 AM MDT, May 24, 2017
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Merchants Bank of California shuts down informal remittances to Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A man raises his cane in anger outside Somalia's largest money transfer company. He is furious that the Merchants Bank of California has announced it will shut down accounts for informal money-remittance services in Somalia that have been a lifeline to many Somalis who receive money from families abroad.

"If they close the hawala (Somali for money transfer agency), will they pay our bills? I'm totally hopeless." said Zahra Hussein, a mother of nine in Mogadishu, outside an agency where she received the news.

Money transfer services have operated for years, but they are now under intense scrutiny as many countries, especially the U.S. and U.K., have accused the agencies of helping fund Islamic extremist terrorist groups. That concern has forced some international banks to terminate business with them — anti-terror laws hold banks responsible if they transfer money to criminal or terror elements.

  • Written by Abdullahi
  • Category: AMERICAS

US: All of the Somali companies ended services at most of their branches on Saturday

A stop gap is now urgently needed to ensure Somali families can access family funds upon which they rely.

Lauren Hartnettt is a humanitarian press officer at Oxfam America.

Friday marked the deadline set by Merchants Bank as the last day they will operate remittance accounts with Somali money transfer operators (MTOs). According to MTO leaders, as of Saturday morning, 80% of Somali remittances will be halted.

Oxfam and others are calling for the US government, led by the Treasury Department, to intervene and save this vital remittance lifeline.

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  • Category: AMERICAS

State Department failed to properly oversee billions of dollars from a nonprofit that provided medical supplies for humanitarian efforts in Somalia

The State Department failed to properly oversee billions of dollars from a nonprofit that provided medical supplies for humanitarian efforts in Somalia, overpaying $1.6 million to Nour International Aid.

Investigators from the State Department’s office of inspector general found that Nour and one of its suppliers, METAD, marked up the prices of medical supplies by as much as 34 percent, charging the government roughly $80,000 in fees not included in the $5.9 million grant budget, over 16 invoices.

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  • Category: AMERICAS

Somali-Americans money transfers to Somalia threatened again

Matt Sepic · St. Paul, Minn.
Remittance rally Rupa Shenoy / MPR News 2011

Twin Cities businesses that help Somali-Americans wire cash to east Africa are again at risk of shutting down.

Merchants Bank of California is closing the accounts of Somali-American money service businesses, or MSBs, by Feb. 6, according to Oxfam.

Merchants handles a majority of MSB accounts, and the bank's decision to close them will cut off a financial lifeline to Somalia, says Oxfam's Scott Paul.

Many banks, he says, fear breaking anti-terrorism financing laws.

The move will be a hardship to Somali-Americans and their families, says Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.

"This is food, this is school fees, this is vital stuff," Ellison said. "This is not luxury items going through."

Merchants Bank couldn't be reached for comment.

Last June, Merchants Bank notified MSBs that it would close their accounts by late July. But in September the bank agreed to keep the accounts open.
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U.S. will transfer 20 mine resistant vehicles, commonly known as MRAPS, to AU forces in Somalia

Uganda and Burundi, two countries that have been deploying forces in to Somalia for years, will be the recipients of the vehicles previously used by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

“The work that has been completed by CJTF-HOA and the other organizations to be able to provide these 20 MRAPs to Uganda and Burundi, has been extremely vital to enabling our East African Partners to fight off violent extremists,” said Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby, task force commander, in a news release. “These vehicles will provide better security and movement to the troops-contributing countries to complete their mission more effectively.”

  • Written by Abdullahi
  • Category: AMERICAS