This story relates to a report carried by the BBC, which begins as follows:
A British oil company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars which went to senior Somali civil servants, according to a UN report seen by the BBC.
UN investigators say the payments by Soma Oil & Gas amount in some cases to “acts that undermine Somali public institutions through corruption”.
The Serious Fraud Office has launched an investigation into the allegations.
The firm, which is chaired by former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard, denies any wrongdoing.
But the questions about SOMA and its activities in Somalia go back to at least September 2013.
And the firm has been active in Eritrea as well as Somalia – a country which Michael Howard (now Lord Howard) visited in February 2014 [See below]
He made the visit despite Eritrea’s atrocious human rights record, as detailed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 2013 report.
News of Michael Howard’s visit to and interest in Eritrea was carried by an Eritrean pro-government website.
UK Firm to Explore Oil and Gas in Eritrea
A group of British businessmen led by former UK Conservative Chairman Michael Howard have arrived in Eritrea to explore investment opportunities in the exploration of hydrocarbon and natural resource in the country.
The visit was followed soon after another UK-based exploration and development company, Ortac Resources, announced an arrangement to acquire up to 42.2% of shares in UK-based Andiamo Exploration, which has a portfolio of advanced-stage high-grade copper and gold projects in Eritrea.
Eritrea’s potential in natural resources – especially gold and base metals – have been confirmed by a multitude of exploration and mining companies that are currently operating in the country.
Although there are reports of possible oil fields off of the coast of Eritrea and a natural gas reserve of some considerable scope, the government doesn’t seem to be too interested in exploiting them – at least for now.
Recently, Oilprice.com Energy Intelligence Unit claimed that Eritrea, a country located in one of the few unexplored places left in the world, has virtually sitted on a massive oil and gas reserve than any other country in the region.
An Eritrean official who confirmed the visit, however, said that “Eritrea treads very carefully as investor’s (big, medium-sized) interest in its oil and gas potential intensifies.”
A Chinese joint venture company, Defba Oil Share Company, has been exploring for hydrocarbon off the coast of Massawa for quite some time though results of its development have been kept confidential.
Last year, a company owned by Mr. Michael Howard has signed a contract with the Federal Government of Somalia to collect data on onshore and offshore oil exploration rights after it secured an equity investment of $50m from British investment company Winter Sky.
Meanwhile, a diplomatic delegation from the European Union is also in the country to discuss development partnership, regional peace and stability.
Eritrea’s growing economic linkage via mining and energy with the west will help narrow the political and diplomatic gaps as it involves the investment partners engage in economic lobbying on behalf of Eritrea.