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Somali Pirates Investing their Ransom Money in Kenya

Discussion in 'Kenyan News and Politics' started by HellFire20, May 25, 2009.

  1. H

    HellFire20 Senior Member

    May 25, 2009
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    NAIROBI, Kenya — Young, newly rich and restless, Ali Abdinur Samo wasn't long for his dead-end homeland of Somalia. The 26-year-old recently decamped to Kenya, East Africa's land of opportunity, to put his wealth to work.

    "I'm looking around," said Samo, whose close-cropped hair is already flecked with gray, an occupational hazard in his line of work. "I know people who are buying shops, hotels, properties. The economy is strong here, not like back home."

    Samo, if you hadn't guessed, is a Somali pirate.

    "Was a pirate," he corrected. After earning about $116,000 in two heists, Samo bowed to his worried parents' pleas and took early retirement in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, where the fast-growing yet shady economy has quickly become a favorite haven for pirates to spend their ransoms.

    The pirates often describe themselves as saviors with AK-47s, an ad hoc coast guard that's retaliating against foreign countries for fishing illegally off Somalia's coast while civil war consumes the government. Follow the trail of their multi million-dollar booty into neighboring Kenya, however, and you grasp the pirates' capitalist ambitions.

    Rather than investing in their wrecked homeland, pirates are laundering huge sums through property, hotels, shopping arcades and trucking companies in Kenya, according to family members, real estate brokers, money traders and pirates themselves.

    They say that ransom money is being funneled to pirate custodians — often well-connected Somali businessmen or religious leaders — through the extensive and largely unregulated Islamic cash-transfer network known as hawala.

    "Pirate money is definitely being reinvested in Kenya," said Stig Jarle Hansen, a Somalia expert at the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research. "There's a boom among Somali businessmen in Kenya, and it's easy to hide the money because there's so much coming in.

    Numerous interviews indicate that Kenya, which Johnnie Carson, the ranking U.S. diplomat for Africa, recently called East Africa's "keystone state, economically, commercially and financially," is awash in ransom money.

    Experts think that the pirates, who've hijacked some three dozen ships in the Indian Ocean this year, have pocketed tens of millions of dollars.

    There's almost nothing worth buying in Somalia, however. Kenya, with its large Somali population is a better place to blow through cash.

    The sums involved are impossible to pinpoint because little of the money will ever be deposited in savings accounts or recorded by a bank.

    "To avoid the money trail, the ransoms are laundered in goods," said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the top United Nations diplomat for Somalia, who's based in Nairobi. "In Kenya, it's very easy for pirates. They can pay in cash everywhere."

    Ahmed Nur Daud, a 43-year-old Somali refugee in Kenya, bitterly described how his pirate cousin, Suleiman, sent tens of thousands of dollars to a Nairobi businessman who imports big-rig trucks from Abu Dhabi.

    "When I saw him the last time he couldn't buy lunch," Daud sneered. "Why doesn't he build his country before investing in another country?"

    The answer, it seems, is that many pirates are after hefty returns, not philanthropy. After all, for a young Somali man with guts and little else, setting off to sea with an automatic weapon is the ultimate act of self-interest, a chance to build a house, pay for a wedding and make a down payment on a decent future.

    Samo, the retired pirate, put it more simply: "If you have money in Somalia, everyone likes you. No matter what you look like or where you got it from. The more money, the better."

    For a shrouded but unmistakable glimpse inside the pirate money network, visit Eastleigh, a dilapidated, Somali-dominated section of Nairobi dubbed "Little Mogadishu."

    The starting point is often a one-room, Somali-owned hawala bureau such as the one where 34-year-old Abdirahman works, in a crowded shopping arcade on a noisy dirt road that turns to muck in the rain.

    Abdirahman, a round-faced clerk in a yellow dress shirt and fraying khakis, met a McClatchy reporter after work and asked that his full name be withheld for his safety. He estimated that over the past several months his office has transferred more than $10 million from Puntland, the lawless northeastern Somali region where most pirate groups are based.

    One day in February, one person received $500,000.

    The cash came from four different names in Garowe, the Puntland regional capital, and Bossasso, a wild port city. The recipient was a simply dressed man with a Muslim cleric's long beard.

    He stuffed the bricks of cash into his socks, belt and waistband and disappeared.

    Where such sums go is difficult to know, but at the nearby al Habib shopping center, 28-year-old shopkeeper Hassan Said Abdullah said that more than a dozen local traders had been evicted recently when a Somali businessman bought up their stalls.

    "Someone came to the owner of the building with a lot of cash, and suddenly the rent for those stalls went from $300 or $400 to $1,500," Abdullah said. "We'll all be flushed out, those of us with little money. This kind of big money brings problems."

    Clothing and textile shops, often supplied from Dubai, are popular money-laundering avenues for pirates, Somalis say, as are trucking companies that transport goods across East Africa.

    Some pirates are paying top dollar for a piece of Nairobi's booming real-estate action. Osman Guyo, a veteran real-estate agent, recently took a Somali man to see an empty lot in Westlands, an upscale Nairobi suburb that expatriates favor. The seller wanted about $125,000,(Ksh 9,870,000) but was waiting on an assessor's estimate.

    No matter, Guyo's client said. He offered $1 million(Ksh 79,000,000) on the spot and signed the papers a few days later.

    Guyo once overheard the client — who'd been referred by a friend in Eastleigh — talking on his cell phone about the MV Faina, a Ukrainian-flagged weapons ship that pirates had held hostage for 134 days.

    When Guyo asked his friend who the man was, he answered, "These are Muslim brothers. Don't worry about where the money comes from. You'll get your fee."

    "I expect this is pirate money," Guyo said in an interview. "Kenyans don't have this kind of money."

    With such riches on the table, experts said, pirates are unlikely to abandon the business anytime soon, despite worldwide condemnation and an international fleet of warships patrolling the Indian Ocean.

    Some, like Samo, are cashing out, however.

    He'd been working as a dockhand in Bossasso last year when he was recruited into a pirate gang and tasked with guarding hostages. After two jobs, he'd had enough of the searing heat and heart-pounding risk. He feigned illness and walked away.

    He proposed to the mother of his young child and spent $5,000 on their wedding. He assuaged his parents' anxiety about his career choice by buying them two modest homes and handing over most of his earnings.

    Then, with $15,000 in his pockets, he set off for Eastleigh, where he's renting an apartment with three other former pirates and trying to find his niche.

    One day he visited a clothing shop that a slightly older pirate he knew had acquired recently. Samo scanned the neat aisles with their colorful fabrics and tried to imagine his future.

    "It was nice," he said later. "The guy sells ready-made men's clothes from Dubai. There was an old man running the store, maybe his relative.

    "It looked like a nice business. Something to think about.
  2. M

    MzalendoHalisi JF-Expert Member

    May 25, 2009
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    1. Coast Guards! Ajabu na kweli!

    2. Eritrea: Huenda ilikuwa makosa this country to be independent from Ethiopia- it is becoming a liability now in the region by assisting warlods in Somalia! Nothing good comes out of Asmara other than war and fighting!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2009
  3. Smatta

    Smatta JF-Expert Member

    May 25, 2009
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    When our corrupt politicians bank and invest stolen money in the West, no one blows a whistle. When Africans steal from The West and invest the same in Africa, everybody cries foul. If this is not a case of double standard, I dont now what is.
  4. Ab-Titchaz

    Ab-Titchaz Content Manager Staff Member

    May 25, 2009
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    Aloo nanii don't get it twisted.Nobody has compalined nothing about
    this so called investment of 'blood money'. To me it seems you are
    approving of the behavior of these Somalis so long as they are
    investing in Nairobi.Umesahau the guns that they bring with them
    and sell in Eastleigh?

    A crime is a crime and it will always be.Whether they are stealing
    from the East or from the West, bado ni wezi tu.Acha they invest
    in Kenya and take over while the local mwananchi hana chake.Hapo
    nd'o mtajua shida iko wapi and I guess it will be too late.

    Kweli kazi mnayo.
  5. Smatta

    Smatta JF-Expert Member

    May 25, 2009
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    I aint defending them, what am saying is how the west is quick to investigate accounts of Muslims if you have loads in your account. I know Pirates are increasing insecurity in Kenya, lakini if it was Britons arm dealers who had stolen from Africans and invested the same, no one would care, The Italian Mafia have major investments in Malindi but the west says nothing. That reminds me, the west are the worst gun dealers in the world, they incite us to fight with each other so that they can arm us and sell us the weapons, but if Africans find a way of getting the same cash but in a way that directly affects the illegal western fishermen in our waters, then the FBI and CIA are dispatched. I dont support piracy at all, but tend to see this issue in a different kind of perspective.. the African one.
  6. Kikojozi

    Kikojozi JF-Expert Member

    May 25, 2009
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    Every race has its fair share of crooks.

    Since time immemorial the west has appointed itself the world's supreme moral authority. We know they are not angels and whenever they condemn evil, they do so in a biased manner.

    But where is the African voice? Maybe it is not loud enough and is almost always drowned out by noises from the west.
  7. H

    HellFire20 Senior Member

    May 25, 2009
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    There is some truth in this especially with the kinds of stories doing the rounds in Nairobi about how these refugees pay inflated rents,forcing land lords to kick out local tenants.
    However the writer of this piece may have gone a bit overboard when describing certain actions for example some one producing a million dollars in one go,
    In reality thats hard because of the sheer weight of the money which would weigh approximately 116Kgs.with all that entering in someone's office with a full gunia .
  8. Yombayomba

    Yombayomba JF-Expert Member

    May 25, 2009
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    Tatizo lingine, Kenya army, Polisi, and intelligent unit are too weak and corrupt. Hivyo hii vita dhidi ya hawa pirate ni ngumu saana mambo yote hupangwa pale Nairobi.
  9. Smatta

    Smatta JF-Expert Member

    May 25, 2009
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    Hakuna vita dhidi ya piracy, ingekuwa wangekuwa wamekamatwa bana, Miafrika tuna mambo.
  10. Nyaralego

    Nyaralego JF-Expert Member

    May 25, 2009
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    yaaaani ...kazi ipo.

    What do we do now. kick all them foul somalis...thats what!!!!..
  11. b

    bahasm New Member

    May 27, 2009
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    Don't underestimate Kenya Army.....Tanzania and Uganda should be lucky Kenya is not ruled by agressive leader such as Moi or Kenyatta used to be or if Raila was sole leader of kenya.