Members of the International Somalia Contact Group held an ad hoc meeting on the Financial Aspects of Somali Piracy in Seoul last week. The meeting, the second one since the first session in Washington in March, was focused on the growing need for international cooperation to stop the flow of money to Somali pirates, prevent money laundering and gather information about the de facto powers behind the pirates, that is, the instigators of pirate activities and their sources of funds. The 80 participants, under the stewardship of Moon Ha-young, Korea’s ambassador for global counterterrorism cooperation, agreed to build a database on intelligence concerning Somali pirates and their financiers. All member governments of the Contact Group will be given access to the information in the database when it is completed and are encouraged to increase teamwork within their law enforcement agencies when investigating piracy.

Such proactive and cohesive action by several nations is a positive step toward countering the ever increasing threat of Somali pirates. However, as I had argued in this op-ed for The African Executive, piracy is a relatively cheap activity making it difficult to crack down on all the sources of illicit funds. Additionally, targeting pirates’ source of funds may have undesired impacts if they join hands with branches of al Qaeda or al Shabaab operating in the region to replace their lost income. Therefore, it is essential to also consider alternative methods, such as using the threat of sanctions and freezing corporate assets in cases of non-compliance, to stop ship owners from paying ransoms. This will serve as an incentive for shipping companies to choose safer sailing routes around the Cape of Good Hope and hire armed personnel to accompany their crew while long term measures that focus on helping Somalia and its neighbors achieve economic and political stability begin to take effect. The Office of Foreign Assets Control in the United States has taken explicit steps in the direction of sanctions and freezing assets of shipping companies that give in to pirate demands but the Contact Group must encourage other countries to do the same because US policies in isolation are unlikely to prove beneficial.


Posted by Rohan Poojara in Foreign Policy, Piracy

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  • Matt Yankee

    So China can shoot at some Philipinos or some Vietnamese and make them abandon their own waters but we can’t bring ourselves to shoot pirates attempting to hijack super tankers in critical international waters.

    Watching us fight pirates is like watching Richard Simmons defend himself or rather avoid the fight…ain’t going to happen. He would come up with every excuse in the book to do nothing or just try to run away…and then get beat to a pulp. Better just get into the fetal position cause it isn’t going to be pretty.

  • B. Walthrop

    This Richard Simmons (circa 2004)?

    PHOENIX (Reuters) – Flamboyant fitness guru Richard Simmons was cited by authorities for allegedly slapping a man in an airport who was poking fun at his exercise videos, police said on Thursday.

    Simmons, 55, known for his tank tops, curly hair and exuberant demeanor, was ticketed for misdemeanor assault after allegedly striking the man across the face while in line at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Wednesday night, police said.

    “He apparently said, ‘Hey everybody, it’s Richard Simmons, let’s drop our bags and rock to the ’50s,”‘ said Sgt. Lauri Williams, a reference to a series of Simmons’s well-known videos. “Mr. Simmons took offense and said he had to ‘bitch slap’ him.”

    The victim, whose name was not immediately available, was described by police as a burly man known to compete in the spectator sport of cage fighting, otherwise known as mixed martial arts. He told authorities that he wanted to press charges against Simmons.

    Police said Simmons cooperated fully with officers at the scene and later was allowed to board a plane to Los Angeles. Police earlier said he had boarded a Las Vegas-bound flight.

    There was no immediate comment from Simmons’ Los Angeles-based manager.

    Now that we’re through that unpleasantness, I think this represents the beginnings of a more coherent whole government approach to the piracy issues off the east coast of Africa. There seems to be mounting consensus that a more proactive policy should be enforced. Not really much different than the (eventual) response to the Barbary Pirates ~230 years ago.

  • Matt Yankee

    I’ll be damned. Delivering “bitch slaps” instead of closed fists is the problem though. The pirates will continues to take the “bitch slaps” for hundereds of millions of dollars every year so we best kick it up a couple of notches sooner rather than later. Like say firing on confirmed pirates instead of taking the guns away and then sending them right back without ANY punishment at all. What would happen to a small town if bank robbers were allowed to just keep trying without any consequences??? Same thing with the border where drug cartels LOVE our border policy of immediate release and half-hearted gibberish.