Saturday, August 10, 2013
An investigation by United Nations monitors has found that the Eritrean consulate in Toronto was collecting money for the African country’s military as recently as January in violation of an arms embargo.
The consulate was part of an “international system of illicit revenue collection” run by Eritrea, ranked one of the world’s least developed and most repressive states, the UN monitors wrote in a recently-released report.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird expelled the Eritrean consul in May after a government investigation found he had been running a taxation scheme that coerced money for the country’s armed forces.
At the time, Eritrea denied any wrongdoing but UN investigators have now reached the same conclusion: that the consulate was part of a military fundraising scheme that used “coercive measures” against Eritreans living in Canada.
“We have seen the report of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring
Group,” Mr. Baird’s press secretary, Rick Roth, said Friday. “There have
been allegations that extortion, threats of violence and fraud are
being used to collect the tax in some cases. … Canada has repeatedly
made clear to Eritrea to respect international sanctions and Canadian
The arms control monitors called on Canada and other countries with
sizeable Eritrean populations to submit reports by the end of December
detailing what they had done to stop Eritrea’s efforts to impose a 2%
income tax and $300 “defence fee” on members of the diaspora.
Among the evidence cited in the report was a receipt issued by the
consulate in Canada indicating that a Toronto man was required to make a
$300 donation to the Eritrean military. Other documents show how money
was wired from Canadian banks through Germany to the Eritrean ruling
The Eritrean consulate headed by Semere Ghebremariam Micael was shut over its role in financing the repressive regime.
The investigators also said they had obtained an audio recording of a
speech by Consul General Semere Ghebremariam Micael at Centre St-Louis
in Winnipeg a month before he was expelled from Canada.
In the April 21 recording, he “mentioned the appointment of
assistants and representatives of the consulate in Winnipeg for the
express purpose of collecting taxation from Eritrean citizens in that
city. Ghebremariam also informed the gathering that Eritrean citizens
would be precluded from investing in Eritrea unless they paid the 2%
The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Eritrea in 2009 because
of its destabilizing role in the Somali conflict. The Eritrean military
has provided training, weapons and money to armed factions such as
Al-Shabab. The monitors said Eritrea continued to have “close links” to
two leaders of Al Shabab.
The report recommended the adoption of a “due diligence framework” to
prevent Eritrea’s mining revenues from being used to violate UN
sanctions. A Vancouver company, Nevsun Resources Ltd., operates a gold
and copper mine in Eritrea.
Ghezae Hagos, spokesman for the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group
of Manitoba, urged Ottawa to adopt the report’s mining recommendations,
which call for a system similar to one set up in Liberia following
concerns over conflict diamonds.
With little in the way of an economy, Eritrea is largely dependent on
mining revenues and diaspora taxes. “Agents of the government have also
raised significant revenues from the trafficking and abduction of
refugees fleeing Eritrea,” the UN monitors wrote.