Along the central east coast of Africa, modern-day pirates threaten some of the world's busiest shipping routes, attacking both European and American merchant ships and seizing their cargoes. According to the BBC:
"Piracy off the coast of Somalia has made many people very rich.A new economy has developed both within Somalia and further afield, as security companies, lawyers and negotiators reap huge profits from their involvement. But finding out what happens to the money delivered as ransom payments is doubly difficult, first because piracy is a transnational crime, and second because Somalia is a country without rules, regulations or a functioning government. There have been various reports that piracy in Somalia is attracting big-time criminals from all over the world; that it is being orchestrated from London; that the ship owners themselves are involved."
And now the area has attracted another pirate of sorts--Erik Prince, formerly of Blackwater fame.
By MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: January 20, 2011
WASHINGTON — Erik Prince, the founder of international security giant Blackwater Worldwide, is secretly backing an effort by a controversial South African mercenary firm to insert itself into Somalia’s bloody civil war by protecting government leaders, training Somali militias, and battling pirates and Islamic militants there, according to Western and African officials.
According to a report by the African Union, an organization of African states, Mr. Prince provided initial funding for a project by Saracen International to win contracts with Somalia’s embattled government. The Somali government has been cornered into a small patch of Mogadishu by the Shabab, a Somali militant group with ties to Al Qaeda.
Saracen International is a private security company based in South Africa, with corporate offshoots in Uganda and other countries. The company was formed with the remnants of Executive Outcomes, a private mercenary firm composed largely of former South African special operations troops that operated throughout Africa in the 1990s.