UN sanctions monitors said that criminal networks were using Iran as a transit point for the export of illicit Somali charcoal, according to a report seen by Reuters.
This illegal trade provides extremist militants Al-Shabaab with millions of dollars annually in tax, according to the unpublished annual report submitted to the UN Security Council.
The report says, according to Reuters, that since March the main destination for shipments - using fake country of origin certificates from Comoros, Ivory Coast and Ghana - has been ports in Iran, where the charcoal is packaged into white bags labeled “Product of Iran”.
“The bags were then reloaded onto smaller, Iran-flagged dhows (boats), and exported to Port Al Hamriya, Dubai, UAE, using certificates of origin falsely indicating the ‘country of manufacture’ of the charcoal as Iran,” the monitors wrote, as published by Reuters.
UN monitors, who are tracking compliance with UN sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea, said Iran and the UAE had not “substantively engaged” when observers raised concerns about the transshipment of Somali coal. The report estimated the total value of Somalia’s illegal coal trade at about $150 million a year in the UAE, where it is widely used in cooking and nargile smoking.
It was also estimated that about three million bags of charcoal were exported from Somalia in the past year.
“The charcoal trade continues to be a significant source of revenue for al Shabaab, generating at least $7.5 million from checkpoint taxation,” the report said, according to Reuters.
UAE Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh said she could not comment because the report had not yet been published.
“That being said, the UAE is fully aware of all Security Council resolutions and is in full compliance with the sanctions imposed,” she told Reuters.
“We also reaffirm our continued cooperation with the Monitoring Group throughout its mandate.”
Reuters also said that the Iranian mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.