Where the hell are they keeping it? Back in November, Kenya's Foreign Minister estimated the amount for 2008 alone to be at $150 million. (I've seen the $100 million number thrown around, too.) Anyway you slice it, that's a lot of jack to keep lying around.
It begs answering, because if you believe this piece - the 'wafer-thin banditos' are spending $500,000 out of every million on food, snacks and cigarettes.
That is a lot of ciggies folks. If one is to believe these figures that means pirates spend $500,000 out of every million-ransom dollars on snacks, smokes and guns. One assumes these wafer thin bandidos are not big eaters, and an AK-47 can be bought in this part of East Africa for under $100 bucks. This means Somali pirates are puffing their way through almost half a million dollars in cigarettes every week.
But if you believe this piece - - the piracy operations are run like a classic MBA school exercise and Dinah's here to tell you there's no way those types are not going to earn the float off of $100 mil.
What? What's that you say? The pirates' roughly $250,000 worth of seed capital is provided from a successful Somali outside of the country through the Hawala money laundering system? Well, what do you know. (Have a little time to kill? You can listen to the NPR's Money Planet podcast on the subject referencing the role of Hawala in pirate financing here. Starts at the 10:00 minute mark.)
Gee, do you think that is the way that the money is getting out of the country, too?
In other pirate news (slightly tardy - but better late than never) US hands over 3 dead pirates to Somalian police.
And just to maintain my personal record of the Islamist - Pirate linkage. (Because the pirate attacks continue apace and you know the question is going to come up again and again.)
At the Somali Piracy Conference on April 7, Ambassador David H. Shinn conceded there was "no evidence that piracy is directly linked to international terrorism, although many Somali groups get a cut of the ransom money." Citing Jane’s Intelligence Review, Shinn explained that the two forces cooperate on arms smuggling, and the pirates are reportedly helping al-Shabaab develop maritime capabilities.
While the relationship is based on business and not ideology, it doesn’t make it any less beneficial to al-Shabaab. He says that they sometimes receive a "protection fee of 5 to 10 percent of the ransom money. If al-Shabab helps to train the pirates, it might receive 20 percent and up to 50 percent if it finances the piracy operation."
Andrew Mwangura, the head of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, has also said such a link exists. He told Reuters in August that "According to our information, the money they make from piracy and ransoms goes to support al-Shabaab activities onshore."
Nor is al-Shabaab the only radical Islamic group utilizing piracy. According to The Long War Journal, "Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate, Jeemah Islamiyah, is often engaged in piracy, as are the Philippine affiliates Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group. The pirates and terrorists are often one in the same, or if not, are in close cooperation."