Canadain news paper accuses Eritrea of EXTORTION
Nov. 13 2011
The government of Eritrea, which the United Nations accuses of supplying a long list of armed groups, including the al-Qaeda affiliate AlShabab, has been raising money in Canada by taxing Eritrean-Canadians, interviews and documents show.
The 2% "diaspora tax" is collected by the Consulate-General of Eritrea in Toronto and helps explain how one of the world's least developed countries raises revenues as it trains, arms and finances rebels from Sudan to Somalia.
In interviews, Eritrean-Canadians told of being pressured to give 2% of their earnings to Eritrean diplomats and agents in Canada. They showed receipts and forms that verify the tax collection scheme is taking place.
"Two per cent tax form," reads a document on the letterhead of the downtown Toronto consulate. There are spaces on the form for reporting monthly and annual income going back to 1992, the first full year of Eritrea's independence.
A separate column is labelled "payment of 2% tax" and another is for "donations to national defence against Ethiopian invasion." The form was obtained from the consulate last week, indicating the collection is still going on.
"That is extortion," said Aaron Berhane, a journalist who fled Eritrea and now lives in Toronto. He said Eritrea gets about one-third of its revenues by milking the diaspora. "They are forced to pay that tax."
While several countries levy fees on their nationals abroad, Eritrea is unique because it has been widely accused of distributing weapons and money to Al-Shabab - which last weekend released an audiotape by a suicide bomber that called for terrorist attacks in Canada and "anywhere you find kuffar [infidels]."
This week, Eritrea was accused of delivering two planeloads of arms to Al-Shabab. Eritrea denies the allegations, but the United Nations has gathered compelling evidence of the country's support for the hardline Islamist group.
"In spite of its relative poverty, Eritrea has long acted - and, in the assessment of the Monitoring Group, continues to act - as a patron of armed opposition groups throughout the region, and even beyond," reads a UN report released in July.
Because of Eritrea's conduct, the UN imposed an arms embargo on the country in 2009, but the Security Council is now considering a wider range of sanctions to pressure the government of President Isaias Afewerki.