Pirates Become Politicians. Poachers Become Wardens
By Robert Young Pelton, Somalia Report
The most talked about, not talked about, story this week is who will replace Sterling Corporate Services as show runner for the UAE-funded, Puntland-based, anti-piracy program. Although the Puntland Marine Police Force still exists as a nominal armed force, the foreign mentors were flown out and the funds suddenly cut off. Three insiders are rushing to meet requirements and outsiders are barely aware that the massive program even existed.
This estimated $50 million dollar a year program appears to have been shut down due to the perfect storm of a UAE based counter piracy program, direct denials by the sponsor that they were funding to the UN, the UN harping on Arms Embargo violations, outside political pressure to reduce Puntland’s influence and the upcoming August 20th change from temporary government to official.
Somalia Report has also learned that the UAE has brokered a behind closed door deal with the UN to avoid the threat of sanctions in exchange for shifting the UN’s focus to yet to be named individuals previously involved in the program. Despite directly violating the two decade old arms embargo by refusing to notify the security council, the UAE will continue to fund the program after their new contractor could meet certain requirements. First would be notification to the Security Council which would have five days to object. Second would be the new contractor presenting three official letters from the AU, UN and US.
One of the other reasons for the abrupt shutdown is a concern that funds for, or control of, major equipment of the now defunct Saracen is in dispute. One of the accusations made is that businessman Jamal Balassi has or is attempting to steal the three large ocean vessels and an Antonov 26 along with money provided for the purchase of helicopters.
Balazzi’s role in the program is covered in depth in the 2011 UN SEMG report but his role is expected to return as a major focal point in the upcoming report. In 2011 the UN wrote:
On 3 March 2010 an offshore company named Saracen International SAL (SociÃ©tÃ© Anonyme Libanaise) was registered in Lebanon by Jamal Muhammad Balassi, a Ukrainian national of Palestinian origin, who serves as both Chairman of the Board of Governors and Managing Director of the company. When questioned by officials from the Lebanese Ministry of Justice, Balassi’s partners in Saracen — one Palestinian and one Lebanese partner, both resident in Sidon, Lebanon — claimed to know nothing about the company’s activities.
In the meantime the UAE, Somali officials, foreign contractors and even the pirates of Puntland are losing no time in taking advantage of the unexpected shutdown.
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The article originally appeard on Somalia Report and is republished here with permission. (c) Somalia Report, all rights reserved