By UNODC. Since 2008, the proliferation of acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia has become a major concern for regional development in Eastern Africa and for international maritime trade. Every year hundreds of ships are attacked in the regional waters, endangering crew members and disrupting one of the world’s key shipping routes.
In recent years the situation has reached alarming levels, pointing towards an increasingly more organized and often deadlier way of operating. While the period 2000 to 2007 saw an average of 26 acts of piracy being reported annually off the coast of Somalia, this number jumped to 111 in 2008 and quadrupled to over 400 in 2009 and 2010. Piracy is now extending into the Gulf of Aden and further into the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. In 2010 alone, approximately 790 crew members were taken hostage, while according to a recent UNODC study, more than US$ 110 million were paid out in ransoms during the year, at an average of US$ 4.85 million per hijacking.
This rise in piracy in the region has reached such a level that it is now considered a form of transnational organized crime, complete with established procedures, a successful business model and well-organized and well-funded backing.
As an integral part of the comprehensive, international strategy to address this crime, countering these acts and tracking the financial profits of pirates and those who support and finance piracy has become a key concern. In recognizing this, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1950 in November 2010 urging states to further investigate international criminal networks involved in piracy off the coast of Somalia, including those responsible for the illicit financing of piracy . Following this Resolution an expert group on illicit financial flows was established by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, who themselves were created in January 2009 to facilitate discussion and coordination of actions among States and organizations.
To assist in the international efforts, UNODC held a meeting on piracy and its links to illicit financing in Nairobi, Kenya from 17 to 19 May 2011. Attended by over 100 participants from 30 countries as well as regional and multilateral organizations and representatives from the private sector, the event offered an opportunity for policy, law enforcement and anti-money-laundering experts to propose concrete actions in tracing illicit, piracy-linked funds in a bid to identify those who ultimately control piracy activity.
Several key recommendations emerged from the three day meeting, including enhanced information sharing and cooperation among the key players involved in counter-piracy. It also noted the importance of improved knowledge of the formal and informal financial channels used to transfer money, as well as training to fight money-laundering more effectively..