al-Barakat or al-Barakaat (Arabic: البركات), which means "Blessings" in Arabic, is a group of companies established in Somalia in 1986. Al-Barakat has involved itself in the modern form of hawala, an informal value transfer system, and the remittance trade. By 2001, it was operating in 40 countries and was the country's largest private employer. Al-Barakat handled about $140 million USD a year from the Somali diaspora, and also offered phone and internet services.
Al-Barakat first began operations in 1986, before the outbreak of the Somali civil war in 1991. It rose to prominence when hawala became the only way to transfer funds to Somalia, and remittances had become the lifeline of some of the nation's inhabitants. With no officially recognized private banking system, the remittance trade in Somalia came to be dominated by a single firm, al-Barakat.
Repercussions following September 11, 2001 attacks
The effects of anti-terrorist financing measures of the US government and other participating countries were disastrous for al-Barakat – and for Somalia which has had no recognized government or functioning state apparatus, and no formal system of banking, since 1993. After the September 11, 2001 attacks the al-Barakat network came under attack since it was suspected that hawala brokers may have helped terrorist organizations transfer money to fund terrorist activities. In 2001, the United States shut down al-Barakat Bank's overseas money remittance channel, labeling the bank "the quartermasters of terror." Despite numerous investigations, nothing was found to link al-Barakat to terrorist activities as was outlined by the 9/11 Commission. By early 2003 only four criminal prosecutions had been filed, and none involved charges of aiding terrorists. The 9/11 Commission Report has since confirmed that the bulk of the funds used to finance the assault on the twin towers were not sent through the hawala system, but rather by inter-bank wire transfer to the SunTrust Bank in Florida. Nevertheless, the al-Barakat network suffered severely, and millions of Somalis are still cut off from funds transferred to their relatives that remain frozen pending conversion of the UN blacklisting.
Several of the captives held in extrajudicial detention in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps in Cuba are held because Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) intelligence analysts asserted they had some kind of connection to al-Barakat.
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Removal from the UN terror list
Weaknesses in the case of associating al-Barakaat with terrorist groups emerged early on after thorough investigations were done in the branches and the headquarters of al-Barakaat. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, which was set up on November 27, 2002, "to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11 attacks", including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks, cited 'No Direct Evidence That al-Barakaat Funded Terrorism' and that 'The FBI agent who led the second U.S. delegation said diligent investigation in the UAE revealed no “smoking gun” evidence— either testimonial or documentary — showing that al-Barakaat was funding AIAI or al-Qaeda. In fact, the U.S. team could find no direct evidence at all of any real link between al-Barakaat and terrorism of any type. The two major claims, that Bin Ladin was an early investor in al-Barakaat and that al-Barakaat diverted a certain portion of the money through its system to AIAI or al-Qaeda, could not be verified. Jumale and all the al-Barakaat witnesses denied any ties to al-Qaeda or AIAI, and none of the financial evidence the investigators examined directly contradicted these claims. Moreover, some of the claims made by the early intelligence, such as the assertion that Jumale and Bin Ladin were in Afghanistan together, proved to be wrong.
In October 2009, the Swedish branch of the Somali bank-network al-Barakaat was removed from the United Nations' list of terrorist organizations. The company had been on the list for the past eight years, and had had its bank account funds frozen. According to the Swedish Public Radio broadcaster SR, the UN did not explain why it had elected to remove al-Barakat from its terror list. However, it has been suggested that the recent change in the European Union's position regarding the many organizations "that have been too easily included in the UN terror list" might have influenced the UN's position. Al-Barakat is now also able again to access its bank account funds.
On 17th Feb 2012, all of the al-Barakaat companies were finally removed entirely from the terror list and the case of al-Barakaat was closed as it was delisted by the UN Security Council al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. The delisting included al-Barakaat Group of Companies Owner and CEO Mr. Ahmednur Jim'ale along with all of the 17 listed entities associated with al-Barakaat Group of Companies including Barakaat Bank of Somalia, al-Barakaat Exchange and Barakaat Telecommunications Company.
- Summarized transcript (.pdf), from Ilkham Turdbyavich Batayev's Administrative Review Board hearing - page 116
- "Three ex-Guantánamo detainees free in Kazakhstan". Miami Herald. December 21, 2006. Retrieved December 21, 2006.
- Summarized transcripts (.pdf), from Mohammed Sulaymon Barre's Combatant Status Review Tribunal - pages 30-37
- Summarized transcript (.pdf), from Mohammed Sulaymon Barre's Administrative Review Board hearing - pages 144-156
- al-Barakaat has been removed from terror list Stockholm News, October 26, 2009
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2009)|
- Boston man arrested in terror money network
- Devesh Kapur: "Remittances, the New Development Mantra?" in Samuel Maimbo and Dilip Ratha, Remittances, (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2004).
- Hawala. An Informal Payment System and Its Use to Finance Terrorism von Sebastian R. Müller (Broschiert - Dez. 2006), ISBN ISBN 3-86550-656-9, ISBN 978-3-86550-656-6