This is part of an ongoing series on the private military company Top Cat Marine Security, which is intertwined with a series on Consultants Advisory Group; both companies lack a valid street address and & refuse to disclose the identities of their management or owners.
From The Daily Nation in Kenya: Doubts over US firm in deal with Somalia
Story by KEVIN J. KELLEY in New York and STEPHEN MBURU in Nairobi
Publication Date: 2/5/2006
Mystery surrounds the operations of a US-based company, two months after it struck a controversial multi-million dollar contract with the Somali Transitional Federal Government to end piracy off the Horn of Africa's coastline.
But a TFG Cabinet minister Hassan Abshir insists Top Cat Marine Security, with which his government signed a two-year $55 million deal, is not only real, but also ready to combat persistent insecurity along the country's 2,000-kilometre-long coastline.
Mr Abshir, the Fisheries minister, sealed the deal in Naiorbi, with Top Cat's head of research and development Peter Casini.
Among those who witnessed the pact was Somalia's Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi.
But investigations by the Sunday Nation found that Top Cat's office in Manhattan is actually nothing more than a call-answering operation. There's no indication of Top Cat officials working there. The company's telephone number at its former headquarters in South Carolina has been disconnected.
A State Department official suggested that the TFG's contract with Top Cat for anti-piracy operations may well result in violation of the United Nations' arms embargo against Somalia.
While declining to comment specifically on the case of Top Cat, another State Department official said the US does not license exports of military items to countries that are under a US arms embargo. The ships that Top Cat says it will use in pirate interdiction actions would probably qualify as military items. The ships would also presumably be equipped with guns and other weapons.
A US-based company such as Top Cat would be subject to export licensing requirements regardless of where its military hardware would be imported from, the official added.
If a US company is found to be in violation of the licensing rules, it would be subjected to penalties under the US Arms Control Export Act. The official said the penalties would be financial and "of other sorts".
The Sunday Nation left four messages with Top Cat's answering centre in New York for Maryann Johnson, the company's vice president for public relations, but despite assurances that she, or another Top Cat official, would get back to us regarding the status of the Somalia contract, we never received a response.
And in Nairobi, Mr Abshir declined to discuss the deal with the Sunday Nation.
We wanted him to shed light on a number of issues including the existence of Top Cat, its capacity to carry out the contracted operations, when the work would begin, the procedure Somali government used to select the company, whether some consultants had been engaged, who would fund the deal and if it would be possible to implement the project as Somalia is under the UN and US arms embargo.
He only said: "They (Top Cat) are ready to come. When they come, I will call and give you all the details."