Somalias pirates: Ransom cash 'Easy come easy go'
Garowe, Puntland, Somalia
July 12, 2011 11:46 am EDT
Unrest, Conflicts And War, Guerrilla Activity, Crime, Law And Justice, Crime, Kidnapping
by Mohamed Shiil
Special to All Headline News
As the piracy phenomenon broke out in Somalia, many ordinary fishermen abandoned their nets and fish hooks and took up what they saw as an easy source of luxury.
Millions of dollars in cash flowed into the hands of the -- usually -- young men, so much so that they lived a life of “easy come, easy go.” Today, they are empty-handed.
Lawlessness and overwhelming unemployment in Somalia forced many young men into piracy, yet today many of them in the Puntland region are looking for other ways of earning a living.
A professional fisherman, Jama Heyraan, said that he had abandoned fishing for the last two years in his home town of Eyl, which was a haven for pirates. The ancient hamlet of 19,000 inhabitants had been dramatically changed as the piracy trade created a boom in the purchase of luxury cars, the construction of new apartments and a steady flow of currency.
Two of Heyraan's sons were implicated in piracy activities .
“My elder son acquired a lot of money from piracy, especially the Saudi tanker. He was engaged in the hijack of at least three vessels. He later procured three luxury vehicles, those known as 'Leyla Alawi,' and had set up a big commercial site for the family." However, the son spent almost all of his money on khat, a stimulant leaf, and for fuel for the boat he used in the hijackings.
Heyraan said that his elder son spent $340,000 for khat and $500,000 for fuel.
Most of the ransom paid to the pirates goes to investors who provide up-front money for the purchase of boats, fuel, food and weapons.
Before launching attacks on vessels passing the Somalia coastline and through the Gulf of Aden, pirates spend weeks in small speed boats transporting additional fuel and food supplies, using funds given in advance by the investors.
During a hijacking, investors provide whatever the pirates need: cigarettes, wine, marijuana and even women. Afterward, the money men demand a hundred-fold refund.
“Investors take advantage of pirates and businessmen on the ground," Heyraan said.
While in action, pirates use expensive satellite telephones and must hire translators’ for mediations about ransoms and even for talking to the media.
A young man, a former pirate who spoke on condition that he not be identified, said that his piracy enabled him spend leisure time in the port city of Garowe driving a new luxury car, with two young girls at his side and hundreds of thousands of dollars in his pockets. He gave hundreds of dollars to friends whenever they got together.
Now he's empty handed. Every penny from the hijack mission has disappeared.
“It is devil’s wealth, money obtained from piracy has no use at all,” the man said. “ I had got a lot of it, but I don’t know where it has gone, and the other pirates are the same as I am, easy come, easy go..it is true.”
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