Pirates off the coast of Somalia have carried out one of their most daring hijackings yet, seizing a tanker in waters close to India.
Thursday’s raid in the Indian Ocean came as the world’s leading anti-piracy experts debated solutions to the growing problem.
The conference in London also comes as experts claim that Somali pirates have set up a sophisticated network of agents to negotiate and launder ransom money that has turned the seizing of ships into a lucrative business.
An international expert who attended the annual assembly of Interpol, the global police organisation, in Doha, the Qatari capital, told the AFP news agency that sea pirates use the financial hub of Dubai and Somalia’s southern neighbour Kenya as key transit points to launder the millions of dollars in ransom money by organised gangs.
“We think that they have a network of correspondents in the region to negotiate the ransoms and to transfer part of the money,” he said.
Another expert, who is based in the United Arab Emirates, said Dubai was a platform where the pirates do their business.
“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.”
The US state department has also identified the UAE, whose seven emirates include Dubai, and Kenya as centres pirates are using to run their illegal operations.
Meanwhile, in China, a group of 17 sailors returned home after being held hostage more than four months.
The group arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday on a flight from Doha, Chinese state media reported.
Earlier this month, Somali pirates announced they had received a record $9 million ransom for a South Korean supertanker, prompting the United Nations to express 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, in early November 9.
“The pirates are also taking greater risks and seeking higher ransoms.”
Dozens of warships from navies around the world now patrol shipping lanes off Somalia’s coast and into the Gulf of Aden and Interpol has also joined the fray to eliminate piracy.
“This year we managed to connect piracy probes between Western Europe and East Africa,” Jean-Michel Louboutin, Interpol’s executive director for police services, said in Doha.
“We have also issued our first ‘red notice'” which seeks the arrest or provisional arrest of suspects, he said on the sidelines of the Interpol conference.