Pirate money promotes global criminal activity -report

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Marines from NATO's Turkish frigate Gediz (L) arrest suspected pirates in their skiff in the Gulf of …

WASHINGTON, Nov 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Pirates hijacking ships off the Horn of Africa and Somalia from 2005 to 2012 garnered well over a quarter of a billion U.S. dollars in ransom and used the money for criminal activities worldwide, according to a report released on Friday.

The study reveals the pirates engaged in human trafficking, arms trafficking, funding militias, and money laundering through trade in the stimulant known as khat, particularly in Kenya, as well as other illegal activities that divert money from the legal economy that would otherwise promote economic development.

"Unchallenged piracy is not only a menace to stability and security, but it also has the power to corrupt the regional and international economy," said Stuart Yikona, a financial sector specialist at the World Bank and co-author of the report "Pirate Trails."

It recommends a range of measures to combat the problem, including steps to deal with illegal cross-border cash smuggling, anti-money-laundering measures, and mechanisms to monitor financial flows through the khat trade.

The study, conducted by the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and based on interviews with former pirates, government officials, bankers and others countering piracy, estimates that piracy costs the global economy $18 billion a year in increased trade costs. Attacks on ships off the coast of Somalia and the Horn of Africa yielded between $339 million and $413 million in ransom money in the seven years from 2005, it said.

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