After the publication of an FATF report on the subject in July 2011, I have started including in my menu of training topics an update on maritime piracy and kidnapping for ransom (inevitably given its own jolly little acronym of KFR). It is always fascinating to learn about a new topic – for instance, did you know that maritime piracy is possible only “on the high seas”, and that “the high seas” are defined by law as being twelve miles or more from the coastline of any jurisdiction. If you board and rob a vessel within twelve miles of a coast, you’re just a boring old thief, not a pirate, and your pirate mates (and their parrots) will laugh at you. But with known ransoms paid to Somali pirates now topping US$300 million a year, that’s a lot of criminal cash going into the system somewhere.
As the UK authorities found with Jamie Stevenson in Glasgow and Terry Adams and James Ibori in London, following the money is a very handy way to get to criminals. And in a recent case, a court in Virginia in the US sent a pirate hostage negotiator to prison for twelve life sentences. In April 2011, an American couple and two friends were sailing their yacht near Oman when they were boarded by a gang of nineteen pirates. Mohammad Saaili Shibin was tasked with hostage negotiations, and determined how much to ask for by researching the victims on the Internet to find out how rich they were and who would be worried about them. Negotiations did not end well, and all four Americans and four pirates lost their lives. Shibin has been ordered to pay US$5.4 million in restitution, which may be ambitious given that he was paid $30,000 for his work – and as he is already serving twelve life sentences, it’s hard to see what threat “additional time for fines unpaid” will be. Traditional pirates (presumably the ones who boarded the yacht) have also been tried, but it is gratifying to see the money trail being used so effectively, and criminal money management being punished severely.