Somali pirates earned $150 mln in 2008 - Russian prosecutor

15:07, 29 May 2009
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In ransom payments from ship owners

Pirates operating in waters off the Somali coast earned up to $150 million in ransom payments, a deputy Russian prosecutor general told a Russian respected daily on Friday, RIA Novosti reported.

"According to various estimates, pirates in the Somali region last year managed to obtain about $120-150 million in ransom payments. This has enabled them to acquire more advanced equipment to seize large merchant vessels," Alexander Zvyagintsev told Izvestia.

"In particular, well-armed pirates now also operate out of large floating bases in the open sea, far from the Somali coast, which allows them to carry out attacks hundreds and even thousands of miles from the coast," he said.

Zvyagintsev said overall losses from piracy were estimated at $13-16 billion, adding that the figure included the soaring cost of insurance and protection for vessels, as well as sending ships on longer routes to avoid high-risk areas.

Somalia has been without an effective government since the Revolutionary Socialist Party was overthrown in 1991. The internationally recognized federal government controls only the capital city of Mogadishu and part of central Somalia.

Around 20 warships from the navies of at least a dozen countries, including Russia, are involved in anti-piracy operations off Somalia. According to the United Nations, Somali pirates carried out at least 120 attacks on ships in 2008.

The UN has also said that pirates have collected $150 million in ransom payments from ship owners.

Zvyagintsev also said 35 naval ships from different states are currently involved in anti-piracy operations.

"Thirty five naval ships from 16 countries, including as part of NATO and European Union operations, patrol the Somali region. This is the most powerful anti-pirate flotilla of modern times," he said.

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