U.S., Iran and China target pirate financiers and Kingpins

Rescued Chinese crew aboard cargo ship Xianghuamen wave to a welcoming Chinese delegation near Bandar Abbas, Iran, April 7, 2012. One of Somalia’s most wanted pirates was captured after Iranian commandos rescued the hijacked ship. PHOTO | XINHUA |

In May, Thomas P. Kelly, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State gave a lengthy speech to the American Petroleum Institute outlining the U.S. strategy to address piracy. The approach includes the following:

  • diplomatic engagement to spur collective international action;
  • expanding security at sea through the use of naval assets to defend private vessels and to disrupt pirate attacks;
  • preventing attacks by encouraging industry to take steps to protect itself;
  • deterring piracy through effective legal prosecution and incarceration; and
  • disrupting the piracy enterprise ashore, including the financial flows that make it possible.

Of particular interest to the prosecution of pirate leaders and organizers was the following:

After an intensive review of our strategy last year, Secretary Clinton approved a series of recommendations which constitute a new strategic approach. A focus on pirate networks is now at the heart of our strategy. We are using all of the tools at our disposal in order to disrupt pirate networks and their financial flows. We are focused on identifying and apprehending the criminal conspirators who lead, manage, and finance the pirate enterprise, with the objective of bringing them to trial and disrupting pirate business processes. Often, the best way to attack organized crime is to follow the money. That’s how the U.S. put some nefarious criminals behind bars. Pirate organizers receive income both from investors and ransom payments, and disburse a portion of the proceeds of ransoms back to these investors. Already, the United States has convicted one Somali pirate negotiator.

This highlights the focus on high-value kingpins as opposed to just the foot soldiers executing attacks. In 2010, President Obama signed Executive Order 13536 concerning Somalia which identified 11 individuals who were suspected of financing piracy. The Executive Order imposed economic sanctions on individuals who “have engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Somalia” and indicated that “among other threats to the peace, security, or stability of Somalia, acts of piracy or armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia threaten the peace, security, or stability of Somalia.” Some of these same individuals were named in a list created by the UN Security Council in February 2012 indicating they are “individuals and entities subject to the travel ban, assets freeze and targeted arms embargo imposed by paragraphs 1, 3 and 7 of Security Council resolution 1844 (2008).”

The list of individuals annexed to the Executive Order includes, Mohamed Abdi Garaad, who was recently arrested together with 12 other suspected pirates on 4 April by Iranian commandos after the pirates had hijacked a Chinese cargo ship. It is reported that Garaad was:

In command of one of the largest pirate militias, Garaad is outspoken and well known to the international media.  He is reported to command 13 separate militia groups, totaling over 800 pirates.  In a 2009 interview, he proclaimed, “The navies, they can’t stop us … we have more than 200 crews and we are increasing all the time.”  Garaad is responsible for the attack on M/V Maersk Alabama, which ended with the successful operation by US Navy SEALs.  After this operation, Garaad publicly threatened to retaliate against US ships and crews.  Garaad is also responsible for the 2009 attack on the M/V Sea Horse, a ship delivering World Food Program aid to Somalia.

See also here and here. It is unclear whether he is in the custody of Iranian or Chinese authorities, whether he will be brought to trial and if so where and under what legal regime.

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One Response to U.S., Iran and China target pirate financiers and Kingpins

  1. Pingback: U.S., Iran and China target pirate financiers and Kingpins « Communis Hostis Omnium « Margot Kiser

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