Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 18, 2012

Newsline: Yemen consul’s kidnappers demand prisoner release

A suspected al Qaeda militant who claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a Saudi Arabian diplomat in Yemen has warned that his group will “prepare the knives” unless their demands are met, an official Saudi spokesman said. Mishaal Mohammed Rasheed al-Shodoukhi, who was named on a list of fugitive al Qaeda militants by the Saudi authorities in 2009, phoned the Saudi embassy in Yemen to demand a ransom and the release of militants in Saudi prisons, the spokesman said. He also threatened more attacks including an embassy bombing and the assassination of a Saudi prince. Abdallah al-Khalidi, the kingdom’s deputy consul, was kidnapped outside his residence in the south Yemen port of Aden on March 28. “The Saudi embassy in Yemen received phone calls by Shodoukhi … saying that he represents the ‘evil group’ and confirming that they have kidnapped the deputy consul in Aden,” a Saudi security spokesman was quoted as saying by the Saudi Press Agency.



Newsline: Taiwanese Diplomat Murdered in Dominican Republic

A Taiwanese diplomat was found slain Tuesday in her apartment in Santo Domingo’s university district, police reported. Julia Ou, 52, had stab wounds and appeared to have been beaten and strangled. The door to the apartment had not been forced open, the police said in a communique, adding that they have begun to question the woman’s neighbours and the people who work in the building. Jose Wang, second secretary in the Press Office at the Taiwanese Embassy in the Dominican Republic, told EFE that several of the victim’s friends had called her by telephone several times to find out why she had not come to work and, when they did not receive an answer, they decided to go to her home. “When they arrived at the apartment they found blood stains in front of the door and decided to call the police,” said Wang. Ou had been posed in Santo Domingo for about a year.


Newsline: US Lenders Pressed on Embassy Banking

The State Department is prodding several large banks to resume doing business with foreign embassies and missions in the U.S. after several accounts were closed amid a broad regulatory crackdown on money laundering, according to people familiar with the matter. Banks including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. have been asked by State Department officials in recent months to reopen accounts that had been closed in 2010 and 2011 with the diplomatic missions of countries. At the time, the banks said they were finding it difficult to monitor deposits and transfers from some of those countries amid the Treasury Department crackdown. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. adopted policies to crack down on corrupt regimes and other illicit activity. Regulators and law enforcement agencies have stepped up enforcement of the rules over the years. When the large banks retreated, some of the embassies moved accounts to smaller banks, such as Congressional Bank, which has four branches, and WashingtonFirst Bankshares Inc., with 10 branches around Washington. But offering banking services to an embassy isn’t any easier for small banks than it is for larger lenders. WashingtonFirst recently told several diplomatic missions that it planned to close their accounts by the end of April, according to embassy officials. Now, as many as 30 countries, including Angola, Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen, are searching for banking services. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have sent a letter to the American Bankers Association, the largest professional organization for bankers, warning that denying banking services to diplomatic missions could hurt U.S. relationships with other countries. But the ABA responded that the rules make banking with embassies “almost an impossible task.” The State Department’s push is driven by its desire for smooth diplomatic relations with embassies and United Nations missions. But the Treasury demands stringent monitoring of deposits and banking transactions. Diplomatic immunity and embassies’ legal status as foreign territory makes the monitoring even more difficult, bankers and lawyers said. In some ways, an embassy works like a small business, making deposits and using cash-management services to make payroll. Bankers are asking for leniency from regulatory enforcement and prosecution in cases in which they lack documentation for deposits and transactions in dealing with embassies on the request of the State Department. They have received none, according to bankers, and the State Department has no jurisdiction to offer the banks help with regulators. For the Nepalese mission to the U.N., the push and pull means finding a new bank for the second time in as many years. The U.S. “is the worst country to…open an account in,” said Dilli Acharya, third secretary for Nepal’s mission to the United Nations.