Pirates Watch: The road to perdition
Here’s an interesting file from our pirates watcher on the connections between piracy and campaign finance, and also how complicated ransom money has become. By Cdr. Herb Carmen, U.S. Navy Best Defense piracy columnist The Chief of Naval Operations’ Foreword in the "U.S. Navy’s Vision for Confronting Irregular Challenges" states, "Our Navy has a history ...
Here's an interesting file from our pirates watcher on the connections between piracy and campaign finance, and also how complicated ransom money has become.
Here’s an interesting file from our pirates watcher on the connections between piracy and campaign finance, and also how complicated ransom money has become.
By Cdr. Herb Carmen, U.S. Navy
Best Defense piracy columnist
The Chief of Naval Operations’ Foreword in the "U.S. Navy’s Vision for Confronting Irregular Challenges" states, "Our Navy has a history of confronting irregular challenges at sea, in the littorals, and on shore." After reading the latest U.N. report on Somalia, it sounds like the security situation in Somalia is a prime example of the irregular challenges navies face.
On March 10th, the United Nations Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea released a report from the Monitoring Group on Somalia. The Monitoring Group, headed by Matt Bryden, describes a stagnant conflict of hybrid warfare and a weak Transitional Federal Government that continues to struggle with a complex security situation. This persistent low intensity conflict creates the space to enable illegal arms trade and a corrupt war economy.
The report states that pirate leaders have contributed to political campaigns of Somali candidates for office and that senior officials have secured the release of pirates detained in counter-piracy operations. It also reports, in great detail, widespread immigration fraud where ministers, diplomats, members of parliament and "brokers" have sold visas for $10,000 to $15,000 each — splitting the profits among them — and that such fraud has enabled pirate militias and members of Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam to gain entry into western nations.
The report downplays the role of illegal fishing as a driver in the industry of piracy in the region, noting that in 2009 only 6.5% of attacks were against fishing vessels. While fishing vessels would present an easier target for pirates than larger merchant vessels with higher freeboard, fishing vessels do not generate the same high ransoms that have been realized through hijacking merchant vessels. This supports a point that I brought up in an earlier post.
Several key pirate leaders are mentioned in the U.N.’s report. Somalia’s "Father of Piracy," Mohamed Hassan Abdi "Afweyne" and his son Abdiqaadir have been involved in hijacking at least seven vessels in 2009. Afweyne reportedly visited Libya last September to gain support for piracy and was on Moammar Khadafy’s guest list as Khadafy celebrated 40 years in power. Afweyne’s business dealings are said to be spread around several Indian Ocean rim nations and this network may could a significant role in hostage negotiations. Abshir Abdillahi "Boyah," from Puntland, claims to lead some 500 pirates and is said to have received multimillion dollar ransom payments. Boyah also claims that Puntland leaders are complicit and receive 30% of the ransoms. Mohamed Abdi Garaad is another well known pirate, reported leading some 800 pirates, and his responsible for the attack on the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama in April 2009.
One of the most interesting pages of the report is found way back in Annex III. "The Piracy Business Model" describes a system that guarantees every participating pirate a defined share of the ransom money. It is sophisticated enough that it includes "A" shares and "B" shares similar to preferred and common shares in legitimate publicly traded companies around the globe. Just like with preferred stock, there is a premium for entering the game. Piracy "A" shares are earned by bringing weapons and being the first pirate to board a ship during attack. The lower-level militiamen that fill the roster each earn a "B" share. Once a ship is hijacked and brought to port, it’s time to balance the books by paying suppliers, investors, local elders for anchoring rights, and "B" shareholders. The remaining funds are split among the "A" shares and distributed accordingly to the "A" shareholders.
When it comes to Somali piracy, we’re not dealing with a few thugs bobbing around the Indian ocean in a John Boat. This is a hybrid, population-centric fight against a network.
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