Money remittance firm ‘Amal Express' refutes report on illicit transfers

Money transfer firm Amal Express which operates in 22 countries including Kenya, has expressed confidence about being cleared against claims by a Switzerland-based NGO that its branch in Bosasso, Somalia was used by suspected arms dealers to wire money to Yemen.

A statement by Amal accused the Global Initiative against Organized Crime (GI-TOC) of being “grossly irresponsible” for relying on an inauthentic receipt to link its branch in Bossaso, Somalia with an alleged money transfer to a Yemeni national on a US government sanctions list in October 2019.

“Regarding a money transfer receipt that Amal Express supposedly issued showing the transfer of funds to one blacklisted person, our investigations conclusively established that the document was not authentic,” read the statement.

It added: “We proved as such to the author of the report when he sought to establish its authenticity, before the report's publication.”

The allegations against Amal and three other money remittance operators (MTOs) are contained in a report titled Following the Money released by the NGO recently. It alleged use of the MTOs by six suspected arms dealers (or financial proxies) based in Yemen and Somalia to wire money between 2014 and 2020.

“With the exception of two instances in which MTOs facilitated the direct transfer of funds to a sanctioned individual, this study does not attribute wrongdoing to any particular MTO. Rather, it aims to identify systematic obstacles to financial compliance faced by all MTOs operating in Somalia and Yemen.”

Amal Express indicated it has invited the Central Bank of Somalia, the regulator of financial institutions, to audit its internal systems regarding the alleged transfer with a blacklisted person. The firm said it expects the findings of the independent audit would be made public.

“Our money transfer systems have robust, in-built mechanisms that would automatically flag out persons blacklisted internationally should they attempt to use any of our branches to transfer money. We also file quarterly reports to our regulator,” it added.

Amal Express said it considers the report a malicious and unfounded assault on its reputation and operations as a legitimate and law-abiding money transfer service provider and reserves the right to take legal action against the report's author and his employer.

The report by Global Initiative analysed nearly six years of transaction records from the city of Bossasso, matching them with mobile phone records provided by security sources and database searches.