UAE-backed Separatists steal 64 billion riyals from central bank

Forces loyal to the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which controls Aden, seized billions of Yemeni riyals as the money was being conveyed from the port to the bank, the bank said on Saturday.

Southern separatists seized a consignment of billions of riyals intended for the central bank in Aden on Saturday, in a further attempt to wrench control from the Saudi-backed government since declaring self-rule in the south in April.

Forces loyal to the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) commandeered the convoy bearing the cash as it left the port, the central bank said in a statement on Saturday, warning of “dangerous consequences”.

The convoy was carrying 64 billion riyals (approx $256 million USD) in banknotes printed for the Yemeni central bank in Russia, a government source said. Another government source said the cash was taken to a military base in what he said was “piracy”.

“The action is part of several measures to end sources of corruption and to prevent the use of public money in supporting terrorism,” the STC said in a statement.

This bold move could threaten a fragile peace between the STC and the Saudi-backed government, nominal allies in a war against the Houthi movement.

The government and the STC signed an agreement last year to end the their power struggle in the south, but the parties failed to implement the deal on the ground.

The STC accuses the Saudi-backed government of mismanagement and corruption, a charge it denies.

The secessionist group, which believes the south should be an independent state, seized Aden, the government’s provisional seat, after battles against forces loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in August.

However, the council says it needs resources to manage Aden and its surrounding provinces.

An STC member told Middle East Eye in May that the council considered the economic battle key to its goals, and accused the central bank of wasting money by paying officials outside Yemen in US dollars.

Meanwhile, the government said it plans to increase oil production by a quarter in coming months. The increase to 75,000 barrels per day would bring production to just over half the output before the country’s civil war involving northern Houthis broke out in 2015.

The Saudi-backed Hadi government controls the eastern and southern areas where Yemen’s oil-and-gas fields are located, while the Anssarallah group controls the capital Sana’a and the oil terminal of Ras Issa on the Red Sea.