Pirates in business suits

According to a May 12 Associated Press report, German police arrested an accountant, identified only as “M.” M was involved in channeling “several millions of dollars” to the Somali pirates who seized the German-owned tanker Marida Marguerite in May 2010.

This isn’t the first time a ransom broker has been charged with a crime, but it marks a new level of resolve by governments to punish the co-conspirators who facilitate piracy, hijacking, kidnapping and murder

Now it’s time for the governments to go after those who pay ransoms as well. This might be difficult for the British government, which is widely believed to have paid $1 million in 2010 to free Paul and Rachel Chandler, who had been kidnapped off their yacht by Somali pirates. This was in spite of Britain’s “no ransom” policy.

No one can argue that those who pay ransoms are accessories to piracy and kidnapping after the fact, whether it’s a government or private actor. The excuse of consideration for the hostages is always put forth, but this argument is negated by the fact that any money paid as ransom will fund future kidnappings by those so rewarded, and will encourage others to do the same. The only answer is to make the payment of ransom as illegal as the actual piracy and hostage taking, with comparable penalties including prison time.

There are those who say, “That’s easy for you to say if you’re not the hostage.” However, I believe I’m qualified to take this stand.

I have lived in Somalia and faced the danger of being kidnapped for months on end. If I do get kidnapped, I hope my government will take whatever measures necessary to free me — just as U.S. Special Forces mounted a successful operation to free two aid workers from Somali kidnappers two years ago. But I do not want my government or anyone else to reward my captors.


About the author

Capt. Max Hardberger

Max Hardberger is a maritime attorney, flight instructor, writer, and maritime repo man. He has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1995. His memoir, Seized: A Sea Captain’s Adventures Battling Scoundrels and Pirates While Recovering Stolen Ships in the World’s Most Troubled Waters, was published by Broadway Books in 2010. He’s appeared on FOX, The Learning Channel, National Public Radio and the BBC, and has been the subject of articles in Fairplay Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Men’s Journal, Esquire (UK), and the London Sunday Guardian.

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