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JOURNALS of Monte Friesner >

Financial Crime Consultant for WANTED SA >

Friday November 12, 2010 >

WANTED SA has just learned this morning that the sea pirates from Somalia and other rogue regions use the financial hub of Dubai and Somalia's southern neighbor Kenya, as key transit points to launder the millions of dollars in ransom money by organized and wealthy gangs.

"WANTED SA believes that they have a network of correspondents in the region to negotiate the ransoms and then to transfer part of the money," an international expert who declined to be named told our sources in the UAE.

Another expert who is based in the United Arab Emirates said Dubai was a platform where the pirates do their business. So not only is Dubai being used as a main port for the illicit funds from and to Iran; Dubai is now a haven for the pirates.

"Dubai is one of the places where they launder the ransom money," said the expert, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

"It's the irony of Dubai! The bulk of negotiations are conducted here; the deliveries are arranged by security companies that are here; the money is delivered or transferred and ends up here, discretely," he said. Great! Dubai is in fact a financial center for criminals and money laundering.

The US State Department has also identified the UAE, whose seven emirates include Dubai and Kenya as centers the pirates are using to run their illegal operations.

"Reportedly, the UAE is used as a financial centre by pirate networks operating off the coast of Somalia and for corrupt officials in Afghanistan, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and Pakistan," it said in its 2010 International Narcotics Strategy report.

"Kenya is developing into a major money laundering country... and the laundering of funds related to Somali piracy is a substantial problem," the report said.

"Reportedly, Kenya's financial system may be laundering over 100 million dollars each month, including an undetermined amount of narcotics proceeds and Somali piracy related funds," it said.

But a senior Dubai Police Official categorically dismissed such allegations in April of 2010 in response to an article published by the British daily The Independent implicating the city-state.

"Money for Somalia and Gulf of Aden pirates has not been laundered in Dubai," Deputy Police Chief General Khamis Mattar al-Mazeina said at the time.

Somali pirates are currently holding 20 ships and more than 400 sailors and passengers, according to the International Maritime Organization. And as they grow more brazen, the business of piracy flourishes into a multi-tiered economy with many profiting from it, according to Turkish politician Birgen Keles.

"As a matter of fact, a new economy flourishes all over the world with security companies, law and specialized negotiators gaining profit from their involvement in solving piracy cases," Keles wrote in a report for NATO.

"London, UK seems to have become the hub for firms that help ship owners deal with the legal aspects of paying the ransoms," she said.

Earlier this month, Somali pirates announced they had received a record nine-million-dollar ransom for a South Korean supertanker, prompting the United Nations to express deep concern. "Piracy is a menace that is outpacing efforts by the international community to stem it”, Lynn Pascoe, UN Secretary General for political affairs, told the UN Security Council, said on November 9, 2010.

"The pirates are also taking greater risks and seeking higher ransoms," he told the Security Council.

"As long as piracy is so lucrative, with ransom payments adding up to tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars, and other economic incentives so bleak, the incentives are obvious," he said.

Dozens of warships from navies around the world now patrol shipping lanes off Somalia's coast and into the Gulf of Aden and the global police organization Interpol has also joined the fray to stamp out piracy.

"This year we managed to connect piracy probes between Western Europe and East Africa," Interpol's Executive Director for police services, Jean-Michel Louboutin, told AFP.

"We have also issued our first 'red notice'," which seeks the arrest or provisional arrest of suspects, he said on the sidelines of Interpol's annual assembly in Qatar.

WANTED SA thanks all the parties who have contributed to this article and their sincere opinions and statements.

The facts and opinions stated in this article are those of the author and not those of WANTED SA. WANTED SA does not warrant the accuracy of any facts and opinions stated in this article; does not endorse them, and accepts no responsibility for them.