The US government has imposed sanctions on a Dubai-headquartered commodity trader and its subsidiaries, accusing the group of raising and laundering funds for terrorist group al-Shabaab. 

Haleel Commodities, which is based in Dubai and has branches and subsidiaries in Cyprus, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, is accused of being a “key financial facilitator” for the group.  

Institutions are prohibited from engaging in transactions with the Haleel group of companies, including outside the US through correspondent or payable-through accounts. 

The US Department of the Treasury says al-Shabaab is “responsible for some of the worst terrorist attacks in East Africa’s modern history”, and is affiliated with al-Qa’ida. 

“Today’s action is part of a multifaceted effort by Treasury to support the Somali government’s economic offensive against al-Shabaab – one of three pillars in their campaign to degrade this deadly terrorist group,” says under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Brian Nelson. 

Another UAE company, Qemat Al Najah General Trading, is accused of managing and transferring funds for al-Shabaab, in connection with Haleel, and has served as “an important money laundering node in this network”. 

Individuals in Finland and the UAE with ties to both companies have also been added to the US government’s list of sanctioned entities. 

The announcement marks the first imposition of US Treasury sanctions linked to al-Shabaab since 2022. It is the first time commodity traders have been targeted, and the first to include entities in the EU. 

The Department of the Treasury has increasingly targeted foreign commodity traders accused of supporting other sanctioned groups or nations, notably in Iran. 

In November last year, it accused a network of traders in Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore of circumventing sanctions on Iran, facilitating shipments worth billions of dollars to Asia and Europe. 

That followed accusations that front companies in the UAE, as well as Iran and Panama, had fabricated shipping documents to evade sanctions on Iranian fuel exports. 

The previous year, the US slapped sanctions on a network of oil traders and shipping companies linked to Singapore, Switzerland and the UAE for allegedly blending and selling Iranian oil.