A United Nations report published on Wednesday said that Somali pirates received about 170 million dollars in ransoms in 2011, up from 110 million the previous year, with some of the money channeled into the world’s legal financial system.
The average ransom demanded to free a ship and crew stood at five million dollars and 10 million dollars for a tanker, the UN Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) told the UN Security Council during a debate on piracy off the coast of Somalia.
UNODC’s executive director Yuri Fedotov said the laundering of ransom money had caused steep price increases in the Horn of Africa and surrounding regions.
Fedotov said he was not aware of any ideological link between pirates and Somalia’s al-Shabab insurgents, who were reported to have alligned themselves with al-Qaeda. The insurgents have been fighting the internationally backed government in Mogadishu.
UNODC, which works with countries fighting piracy, said there are currently 1,116 young Somali men being prosecuted for piracy by courts in 20 countries around the world. He said another 688 pirates are being prosecuted in African countries like Kenya, Somalia, Seychelles, Tanzania and Mauritius.
One leading expert on security in the Horn of Africa told Bikyamasr.com recently that the spike in piracy is a direct result in the lessening of media coverage of the region.
“Many editors in the US and Europe don’t feel it is a sexy story any longer and this means we are retreated from looking into the realities on the ground and the struggle against piracy in Somalia,” the official, a former US government security chief, told Bikyamasr.com.
Pirates often use international banks and reports in Cairo suggest they are using the Egyptian capital as a means of transmitting their funds globally through local banks here.