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Banks should not be political pawns

I received an email on my recent blogs about remittances
and Somalia from one reader, Knut Flottorp, and thought it worth posting on the blog to add to the debate. 

The banks will have problems with Somalia no matter what they
do, because the so called government
is based upon the mandate of foreigners, including the United Nations.

These foreign
institutions back this action because of US pressure. The US wants this
government in order to take the natural resources (oil and uranium) in the
country for their own interests.

Somalia is actually a country that is not that divided.

The
clans more or less agree that they want to live peacefully, and it is just a few
Muslims that have gathered national coverage and some support from most of the
clans. These Muslims are the Al Shabab movement, and it is this movement that
the US claim has ties to terrorist organisations.

The level of evidence to
support this is incredibly weak however, and so the politics is the real play
here. For example, accusing all Somalian groups of being terrorists for a weak link to an extremist group would be like saying that no-one should deal with Labour, the
Conservatives or the Liberals in the UK because they may be supporting a
terrorist organisation like the IRA.

In Somalia, Puntland in the north is peaceful and works to
become a separate country. It has achieved a status to move towards this, and is
under consideration by the African Union as an independent country with its own
elected government.

The country was never “colonised” but was disputed between
the French, Italian and British. They never saw the reason to end the
discussion about this area, because of the small value of the land.

Most of the Somali you find in Europe will support the “terrorist”
activity because their clan, family and friends have struck some agreement with
them and, as you can see, they are predominant Muslims. As long as the foreign
office in the European countries are not open to discuss with the majority of
people in the country, the banks will end up being unable to serve anyone in
the country. Just as most Somalis will have nothing to do with the government
established by foreigners (similar to Vidkun Quisling. who did not expand his popular base in Norway during WW2).

The banks are therefore faced with a moral issue as tow whether
they should allow funds to be transferred to individuals who are definitely not
criminals and who have never had any allegations of that or of terrorist
activity, or follow the opinions spoken in the media and enforced by the
foreign office that condemns most of a nation as “terrorist” and a threat to
their “democratically elected government”.

I have been to Somalia, seen the people, negotiated peace, achieved
peace for a while and am pretty fed up with the arrogance exhibited by the rest
of the world.

If you base a decision on wrong information, the decision
will most likely be wrong.

This is why they have tried prosecuting Somalis in Norway
for supporting terrorist groups, just to find that the funds were used for
local community projects, hospitals and general aid, and where every penny
could be accounted for.

Barclays and HSBC should do the same: follow the money and
see what it is used for, because the Somalis will show its clean and, when they
can show that it goes to aid and family, make the Americans prove that they are
terrorists. When they cannot, they will have to let them go, and their
allegation of Al Qaida links will be more and more ridiculous by every lost
case.

This is their hard earned money, and of course they keep
account of every penny. Denying fund transfer just moves the transfer to US “wire
transfer” companies such as Western Union, that do not comply with any EC
Anti-Money Laundering regulations, and makes it impossible to trace.

That is the agencies the real terrorists use.

In
conclusion, we were all outraged when the IRA exploded bombs in London in the
1980s and 90s, and now we know how much the IRA relied on “tax deductible
donations” from the USA.

These
are the people who now tell us where to point the gun and how to manage the
money flows.

The
issue today is that banks move, and money can be used for good and bad but it
is not a bank’s role to impose a political sanction or moral judgement. If they
do this then the rules will favour those in power, which is usually the countries
that do not need aid and claim to “use of money ethically for good“.

When
the banks do get involved in such political stances, they simply force the
villains to use alternative means of money transfer that avoids sanctions, such
as buying arms abroad and paying by Western Union.

We need
to get the message across that the banks should not execute the penalties for
the state, and that some other institution has to do that.

Of course,
banks can report knowledge they gain to the Intelligence Services about who
sends the money and where it goes, but it should then be the role of the Intelligence
Services to investigate those activities, not the banks.

This
means the Intelligence Services should investigate the other means of payment
as well, particularly commodity trading using Western Union, Moneygram, Forex
and the rest.

We
cannot have multiple sets of rules, and the banks’ role is to manage funds and
payments and not police the world. If they do try to do this, then they will do
more damage than good.

 

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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