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.