|Africa News Digest
Evidence the Somali Pirates Are Guided from London
May 12 (EIRNS)The Somali pirate crews hijacking ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean receive intelligence from well-placed informers in London, according to a European military intelligence document leaked on May 11 by the Spanish radio station Cadena SER. The document, which is reportedly being distributed to European navies, asserts that a "consultant" team in London is guiding the pirates to the ships they prey upon, and giving them very detailed information on cargoes, crews, and courses. The London informers are in regular contact with control centers in Somalia, and at least one shipping company has said that the pirates remained in contact with London even while aboard the ship they had hijacked.
Information is also coming from networks in Yemen, Dubai, and the Suez Canal region of Egypt. According to the military intelligence report, "information that merchant ships sailing through the area volunteer to various international organizations ends up in the pirates' hands," allowing them to prepare their attacks well in advance. Hijacked ship captains have reported that the pirates are very well informed about their cargoes, layout, and ports of call. The report also said that British vessels are increasingly avoided by the pirates.
On May 14, the intelligence arm of Lloyds, Fairplay Shipping News, published its own version of the pirates' London connection. Lloyds, of course, is not an impartial party, as the increased premiums on sea insurance due to piracy have increased revenue for the London-based insurance giant. According to its version, the pirates are supported by "Somali businessmen" who do normal business through trading routes to the U.A.E. and Western banks, and finance piracy "on the side."
The Lloyds publication does, however, admit that Western intermediaries gain as much from the piracy business as the pirates themselves. While the latter netted an estimated $80 million in 2008, an equal amount was paid by owners of captured ships to law firms, underwriters, and ransom specialists!
The idea that piracy can be fought by patrolling the sea is a losing proposition, as the four naval task forces in the area cannot prevent new ships from being sent from the Somali coasts. In fact, this situation is a result of the creation of the first "failed state" in the world, Somalia, through the London-supported civil war in 1991 and subsequent destabilizations.
In the meantime, as suggested by Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, there is another way to catch the pirates: "go after their treasure." They usually work through "intermediaries outside of Somalia, negotiating ransom money through financial centres: these need to be hit.... Let's defeat these bandits in the courts, the ports and the banks, as well as on the high seas," Costa wrote on Feb. 5, 2009.