Protest today over closing of Somali money wire accounts

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 30, 2011 - 2:52 PM

Twin Cities Somalis demonstrated Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, in Minneapolis over a bank's plan to stop allowing money transfers from Minnesota's Somali community to relatives in Somalia.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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Members of the Somali American Money Services Association -- a coalition of money transfer operators in Minnesota -- will hold a rally this afternoon in Minneapolis to protest a loss of banking support that has led them to suspend money-wiring services to Africa.

Many of the state's Somali-owned money transfer operators, or hawalas, stopped accepting money for transactions -- a day earlier than the Dec. 30 deadline when their Twin Cities bank, Sunrise Community Banks, was to close their accounts.

Bank officials have cited fears that the accounts put them at risk of violating federal rules designed to stop terror financing. In October, two Minnesota women were convicted of conspiracy to provide financial support to known terrorists in Somalia, using hawalas to send money overseas.

Countless Somali-Americans use the money transfer businesses to support their relatives in Somalia. For decades, the war-torn nation has not had a functioning government or a central banking system.

The protest is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at Peavey Park on Chicago and Franklin Avenues in Minneapolis.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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