A Maryland lawyer representing a Somali police chief accused of attacking an opposition politician has been indicted on charges he defrauded that country’s government.
The US Department of Justice this week charged Jeremy Wyeth Schulman with 11 counts of fraud and money laundering in connection with an alleged scheme to fraudulently obtain control of $12.5 million in assets of the Central Bank of Somalia that were frozen because of the conflict in the country.
Prosecutors accuse Schulman of misrepresenting his authority to obtain control of the assets between 2009 and 2014. As a result, they say, the firm where he was working at the time, Shulman Rogers, improperly retained more than $3.3 million while remitting the rest back to the Somali government.
Schulman’s lawyer, Paul Butler of law firm Akin Gump, said the indictment was based on a misunderstanding and that there is no question Schulman was working on Somali authorities’ behalf. Schulman was one of four people Shulman Rogers registered as foreign agents on the firm’s contract with the Somali government to help recover the assets, lobbying records show.
“His authority was confirmed by the highest levels of the Somali government,” Butler said.
Now a founding member of law firm Schulman Bhattacharya in Bethesda, Shulman currently represents Somali clients including the chief of police of Banaadir region, which encompasses the capital Mogadishu. The firm’s work on behalf of Sadak Mohamed began around May 2019 and includes media outreach and obtaining redress from the United Nations, according to the firm’s lobbying registration.
Mohamed has been accused by opposition figure Abdirahman Abdishakur of planning and organizing a December 2017 raid on the headquarters of Abdishakur’s Wadajir Party in which five security guards were killed. Mohamed has denied involvement.
And this June, Schulman was retained by Somali aviation operator Fly Africa for legal representation regarding the case of an East African Express Airways cargo flight carrying COVID-19 aid that was allegedly shot down by Ethiopian troops on May 4 as it approached Somalia’s Berdale airport. All six people aboard were killed.
Schulman Bhattacharya is providing legal services and responding to media queries on behalf of Fly Africa, which had been leasing the plane. Schulman is the sole registered agent on the account. The firm is to be paid a contingency success fee worth a third of any payouts.
Butler said Schulman planned to continue to represent his current Somali clients as he fights the US allegations.
“His clients are behind him,” Butler said. “We’re hopeful his practice will go on and continue to be successful and continue to represent Somali government interests.”