Maran Centaurus: money to another bank account

The banking industry finally shows up in piracy as an overnight gun battle in the town of Haradhere over the sharing of a ransom paid for the release of a Greek-flagged supertanker Maran Centaurus brings mention of multiple bank accounts.

The ransom, believed to be a record $7 million, was dropped onto the tanker where it lay at anchor off the port of Hobyo on Jan. 17, Muse said. “There is mistrust within the group because there are rumors that some extra money has been transferred into another bank account that some of us weren’t aware of,” he said. The oil it is carrying is estimated to be worth $150 million.

Pirate activity has grown into a small but profitable industry in one of the world's poorest countries.

"Apart from those who take part in the operations, who currently number more than 1,000, there are those who provide services ranging from negotiations with ship owners, procurement of weapons, training of pirates, information gathering, logistics and so on," said, a British expert with 20 years' experience of Somali financial and development issues.

He was sceptical of suggestions that some funds may be laundered via the Gulf, saying the pirates kept their money inside Somalia because they knew it would be intercepted if they moved it outside the country.

"Some invest in land and property in their home towns where they know that they would never be prosecuted," Ahmed said.

"All the towns in the area are booming ... Ransom money 'trickles down' to many people in the towns. The local economy now runs on dollars, with shillings used only for small change.This is one of the reasons why local people support it." The money is there, bulk cash. The local government doesn't mind, or doesn't have the authority to object, to control ... All dirty deals are paid in cash," he said, referring to the pirates' purchases of arms, communications gear, speedboats and other equipment.

"There is no need for them to launder the money, because the law enforcement is not there at all, the banking system is not there, so why even think of laundering money?"

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