Wednesday. May 01, 2013
Mary Alice Salinas
On June 3, the United States begins a capital murder trial against three alleged Somali pirates, accused of killing four Americans at sea. If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to death. While more pirates are being convicted in courts around the world, the kingpins who profit most from the crime continue their work with impunity.
In the last decade, shipping off the coast of Somalia was subjected to relentless pirate attacks, the numbers peaking in 2011 with 176 reported cases. Now, though, international naval patrols and armed guards on ships are keeping the pirates at bay. But this cannot last for long, said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau.
“The root cause of piracy is not at sea, it is on shore in Somalia," he said. "So long as Somalia has got parts of the country which are ungoverned without law enforcement or judicial systems, piracy is going to continue.
The pirates operate largely in the open along Somalia’s central coast, making it a high-profit, low-risk enterprise for the kingpins. They have pulled in hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom paid by shipping companies to free their vessels and crews.
Despite the current security measures, Mukundan said he is not aware of a single criminal piracy network that has been dismantled, providing crime bosses with even more incentive to keep operating.