Somali piracy profits go to investors

Somali piracy has become a big business that profits large criminal kingpins as well as small investors in the diaspora, even as international efforts have cut back on their earnings, according to European Union and US officials.

Overall, however, Somali piracy has dropped to the lowest rate in more than six years as merchant ships carry better protection on board, and as military vessels from NATO, the European Union, Russia, China and dozens of other countries patrol the Indian Ocean waters.

In addition, 1,435 suspected Somali pirates or their financiers are now in custody or jail in 21 countries, sending an additional negative message to would-be pirates, said Donna Hopkins, coordinator for counter piracy and maritime security at the US Department of State, on Thursday.

She joined Francois Rivasseau, deputy head of the European Union delegation to the US, in briefing reporters at the State Department’s Foreign Press Center.

The EU recently took over the chairmanship of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia from the United States.

Most of the 80 countries involved in the Contact Group do so through their foreign ministries, but Italy also has its finance ministry involved, using its historic ties to Somalia to help track the money flow, Rivasseau noted.

Some of that investment is coming from the successful Somali diaspora, such as that in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which participates in an “informal but sophisticated” underground stock market “where investors can buy shares in hostage taking,” Hopkins said, naming just one of the communities that has been identified. In November, a report from the UN office on drugs and crime, Interpol and the World bank, said as much.

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