The drama over UK’s Soma Oil & Gas continues to unfold since the British Serious Fraud Office raided the company’s London office on July 31, as part of its investigation into $500,000 worth of payments to Somali officials, to cite Bloomberg. Michael Howard, former U.K. Conservative Party leader and current Chairman of Soma Oil and Gas, has insisted that his company has done nothing wrong and was cooperating wholeheartedly with the investigation.
According to the Financial Times UN investigators filed a confidential report to the UN Security Council on Soma itself on August 3, adding that these payments represented “a serious conflict of interest, in a number of cases appearing to fund systematic pay-offs to senior ministerial officials”. This was in reference to payments worth $580,000 made by Soma for “capacity building arrangements” at Somalia’s ministry of petroleum, which took place at the same time that the company was trying to attain exclusive rights to any hydrocarbons it found in the 12 exploratory oil blocks it was given.
The UN investigators were able to uncover a letter dated March 2014 from Somalia’s then minister for petroleum and mineral resources, marked for the attention of Lord Howard and two Soma executives requesting this “capacity support”, which included everything from office repairs to “salary or consulting fees” plus other benefits for “the hiring and contracting of qualified technical staff and expert consultants and advisers, inside and outside of Somalia”.
Lord Howard is scheduled to speak to the SFO investigators himself.