The Big Business Of High-Seas Piracy

The World Bank released a report on the economics of piracy in Somalia. Host Rachel Martin reports that hijacking the ship is just one part of the elaborate enterprise: books are kept, expenses tallied and salaries paid.

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In Tom Hanks' latest movie, "Captain Phillips" audiences were taken aboard a ship under attack by Somali pirates. This past week, a new report by the World Bank, the U.N., and Interpol followed the money trail behind Somali pirates and found...

STUART YIKONA: This is a business. It was investors coming together to invest.

MARTIN: That's Stuart Yikona from the World Bank, who co-authored the report.

Since 1995, more than $400 million has been paid in ransom money, almost $3 million per hijacking. A hijacking is just one part of the elaborate enterprise. When the money men take over, they negotiate a bounty for a ship's release in U.S. dollars.

YIKONA: It is very well organized. I mean they have machines that count the money as well as check to make sure these are not counterfeit U.S. dollars.

MARTIN: The financiers take their cut, while the pirates end up pocketing somewhere between $30,000 and $75,000. All of the money helps sustain an entire pirate-based economy.

YIKONA: And then you have other suppliers of goods and services - mechanics, cooks - and, of course, the money goes back into financing, say, the pirate activities. The money is going around in circles.

MARTIN: And stopping that circle, the report finds, means going after investors not just policing pirates.


MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News.

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