Oil Refinery in Somaliland: Yet Another Murky, Scam ‘Investment’?

On April 10, 2019 the Vice President of the Republic of Somaliland Mr. Abdirahman Saylici and a delegation of cabinet ministers and other high-ranking officials from Somaliland government inaugurated one of the largest investment projects in Somaliland – An oil refinery plant in Berbera.

There are two foreign companies involved in this project Singapore New Silk Somaliland Energy CO LTD (SNSSEC) and China Power.

According to the Mr. Abdillahi Abdi Muse, a Somaliland businessman and one of the speakers at the ceremony, Singapore New Silk Somaliland Energy CO LTD (SNSSEC) is the sole investor of this project. His connection to the project is unclear.

Little is known about this project and details about the companies involved such as Singapore New Silk Somaliland Energy CO LTD (SNSSEC) are scarce. The closes thing we can locate is a one-year-old company with a similar name that was registered in March 2018.

An oil refinery is an expensive undertaking and the cost of setting up such an operation is in the billions. If true, this would be the largest investment by a foreign company in Somaliland.

Unlike other projects, the number of government Ministers and high-ranking officials present at the ceremony showed Somaliland’s extraordinary exuberance in this new investment opportunity.

So what do we know so far? Not a lot unfortunately. Successive Somaliland administrations and especially the current government has not done a good job in vetting companies it has so far signed deals where the announcement ceremonies had more thought put into them than basic due diligence.

Somaliland’s history is littered with many phantom investments that never materialized including a billion dollar deal with a non-existent Chinese bank, an Australian firm setting up a salt plant to end hunger, a Swedish conman who used the Vice President as a prop when he launched one of his many scam companies.

Singapore New Silk Somaliland Energy CO LTD (SNSSEC) may as well be one of these except there is not enough data to reach the most basic of conclusions – and that is a red flag.

Singapore or China?

According to a language expert we have consulted to help us translate and answer if the foreign principals from Singapore New Silk Somaliland Energy CO LTD (SNSSEC) are in fact from Singapore or China, they were unanimous in pointing out that their accents are Chinese mainland.

Even though one of the foreign executives at the groundbreaking ceremony described the event as “a day that brought Singapore and Somaliland together”.

China is investing huge sums in its belt and road initiative and while China has so far not dealt with Somaliland, there is a small chance this project might be connected.

Several people who spoke at the ceremony including the Vice President and foreign officials from Singapore New Silk Somaliland Energy CO LTD (SNSSEC) have indicated that up to 300 workers would be recruited from the Somaliland National Service and would be sent to China to be trained to work at the plant.

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