British oil firm Soma Oil and Gas paid gross sums to the Oil ministry in Somalia, to extend the Oil exploration contract it signed with the war-torn country in 2013, the United Nations Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (“UNSEMG”) has revealed.
Soma Oil & Gas is an offshore private UK company founded in 2013 to pursue oil and gas exploration opportunities in Somalia.
According to the UN report, Soma allegedly paid an illegal sum of over $600,000 to individual government officials a thing which must have created “serious conflict of interest” in the expansion of the exploration contract.
The company is now under investigation by the Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
“The SFO confirms today that it has opened a criminal investigation into SOMA Oil & Gas Holdings Ltd, SOMA Oil & Gas Exploration Limited, SOMA Management Limited and others in relation to allegations of corruption in Somalia.” SFO noted in a statement on July 31, 2015
Reacting to the allegation, the company has accused the UN experts of fundamentally misunderstanding the nature, purpose and destination of the payments made under the terms of the Capacity Building Agreement (“CBA”) the company signed Somalia.
“All payments pursuant to the CBA and relating to the Data Room were made directly to the Somali Government following appropriate due diligence and the implementation of various legal safeguards pursuant to independent legal advice provided to the Company. Soma has never made payments to individual government officials,” Soma noted in an official statement
However, the U.N. monitors described the capacity building programme as “likely part of a quid pro quo arrangement”, whereby the ministry would protect the Soma contract from any negative consequences when a panel chaired by the Somali finance ministry began conducting a review of all its contracts.