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How Pirates In Puntland Use Ransom Money For Acquiring High Social Status And Protection
Bosaaso, September 27, 2008 (SL Times) – Piracy has become the most lucrative business in Puntland , Somalia 's north eastern region and safe haven for numerous armed gangs that hijack private and commercial vessels traveling in the waters between Yemen and Somalia for ransom.
In this year, pirates have already collected at least $80 million in ransom payments from ship owners.
It was only yesterday when Puntland pirates announced the release of a Japanese ship after the payment of a $2 million ransom.
Although sources close to the pirates estimate the number of vessels seized this year in the Gulf of Aden and off Puntland to be over 100, however only about a dozen of them had been reported.
Shipping companies are often reluctant to report piracy attacks out of concern for the increase in insurance premium that it would trigger.
But piracy in Puntland is not going to disappear. It has become the easiest way not only become rich but also to climb the social ladder fast.
Punland's piracy industry now employs over 2000 people. But the daring raids on ships are usually carried out by about 500 hardcore pirates who are often organized into groups of 10-15.
Pirates share their spoils with the local community and governing authorities for protection.
The rule is that 20% of the ransom money is invested in purchase of any equipment, weapons and communication devices that may deem necessary improving the efficiency of piracy operations, while 20% is allocated to each of the hosting community and the Puntland authorities. The remaining 40% is divided up among the Hawl-galeyaasha or the people who do the actual piracy attacks in the sea.
The piracy code also requires allocation of generous compensation funds to the families of pirates who are killed or wounded in piracy attacks.
Pirates tend to pay extravagantly for services or for goods to buy loyalty.
A Bosaaso businessman who deals with them said “A pirate buying a cup of teas in a remote coastal village would normally pay 10 times the actual price. If they need an extra AK 47 they would rent it from a villager for $100 for a couple of weeks instead of paying the whole $300 it costs.”
There is no doubt that the adventurous and lavish lifestyle led by the pirates in Puntland has already won admiration and allegiance from local communities.