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Somali Money Transfer Firm Wins British Reprieve

Workers serve customers at a Dahabshiil money transfer office in
Workers serve customers at a Dahabshiil money transfer office in "Kilometer Five" street of Soobe village, southern Mogadishu, Somalia, May 8, 2013.
VOA News
A British court has prevented Barclays bank from cutting off service to the Somali money transfer company Dahabshiil.

The decision will allow Somalis to continue receiving remittances from abroad. Somalia has no formal banking sector, and the remittances are a key lifeline for thousands of people there.

Barclays had threatened to suspend business with Somali money transfer companies, on concerns the remittances are being used to fund terrorism.

But Britain's High Court issued an injunction Tuesday that will keep Dahabshiil's operations going until at least the end of a full trial sometime next year, should Barclay's decide to appeal the ruling.

The CEO of Dahabshiil, Abdirashid Mohamed Duale, welcomed the ruling.

In an interview with VOA, Duale said millions of Somalis, other African communities and humanitarian aid groups depended on his company's services.

"I was very happy the court decided that our bank account with them cannot be closed. That's good news for our customers, it's good news for humanitarian agencies that depend on our services, and others. Of course, we need a long-term solution, and that's why recently the U.K. government announced that they want to set up some kind of safe corridor, and we're looking forward for the government's permanent solution. But in the meantime, we're very happy that our account will remain open with Barclays bank," he said.

Duale said Dahabshiil challenged Barclay's decision on the grounds that the British bank was creating an unfair competitive situation.

"Barclays bank said they want to get out of the sector. They have decided to close hundreds of money service accounts, but they want to keep certain companies. So that's why we believe by keeping certain companies and not treating them equally it's against the competition, and that's why we on the advice of our legal team, we went to the court and asked the judge that Barclays Bank cannot close our account on the competition ground," he said.

Money transfer is a huge business in Somalia, used by tens of thousands of Somalis to send and receive money from abroad.

The U.N. estimates Somalia receives $1.5 billion each year through remittances sent from overseas, which are helping the country rebuild from decades of civil war. A third of that amount is sent through Dahabshiil.

Barclays had threatened to terminate the accounts twice before, only to back down in the face of protests from humanitarian groups.

Financial experts have warned if Somali wire money transfers are suspended, some of these money systems will go underground. They say this would make money laundering and terror financing easier.

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