A Canadian chartered bank being used in Eritrea's controversial tax collection scheme is being urged to get out of it, CBC world affairs correspondent Rick MacInnes-Rae reports today from Winnipeg.
The UN says Eritrea relies on threats and coercion to extract two per cent of the income from Eritrean citizens in Canada. In Winnipeg, the money is then funnelled to the East-African dictatorship via Toronto-Dominion Bank, documents obtained by CBC News show.
They show two branches of TD Bank are favoured by the man Eritrea designates to deal with the diaspora.
TD Bank is his vehicle for wiring money to the DZ Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, which routes it to a bank owned by the ruling party in Eritrea, a country under UN sanction for supporting armed insurgents in east Africa, MacInnes-Rae reports.
Ghazae Hagos, of the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Manitoba, says Eritrea is moving the money through banks to sidestep Canada's recent ban on moving it through the consulate in Toronto.
"They have stop this right away, immediately," said Hagos. "They have to take measures to make sure that nothing like that will happen ever again."
Amnesty International is also calling on TD to quit handling the money transfers.
"Any company, including a big bank, should be very scrupulous about ensuring that it's not operating in ways that are going to contribute to, facilitate, and end up therefore being complicit in human rights violations," said Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.. "And that's the big troubling question here."
Contacted by CBC News, the banks were terse.
TD issued a brief email saying it's complying with all applicable laws and is "investigating the claims addressed by the CBC."
The bank said it has "rigorous controls to ensure we comply with Canadian economic sanctions regulations."
That theme was echoed by the DZ Bank, the bigger link in the chain since it deals directly with Eritrea, even though the German government frowns on the tax collections, MacInnes-Rae reports.
"All the transactions we carried out," DZ says, "were in compliance with the provisions of the European Union and the embargo regulations."
Neither bank responded to requests for interviews.