Two Kenyan planes taking Sh300 million ransom to pirates in Somalia were on Wednesday being detained by security authorities there.
The planes operated out of Wilson Airport in Nairobi, are carrying $3.6 million and were intercepted at Mogadishu airport on Tuesday.
Somalia Interior and Security Minister Abdishakur Hassan Farah said six people, including the pilots of the two aircraft, are being held.
“Two unmarked planes landed at (Mogadishu airport) and exchanged cargo. After investigation, $3.6 million was found,” Mr Farah said.
The minister said three of those detained carried UK passports, another one has an American passport while two have Kenyan identities.
“The aircraft, the consignment and the men in custody are under investigation,” he said.
Mr Farah said initially, the detained men said the money they were carrying was for humanitarian activities but “after interrogation” admitted that it was ransom for the release of a vessel hijacked by pirates.
Combined Maritime Forces
Western naval forces intercept a skiff carrying suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
State Minister for Finance in the Transitional Federal Government Mohamed Hassan Aden confirmed that $3.5 million cash was seized at Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle Airport on Tuesday.
Minister Aden said the cash was “suspiciously brought to the airport” by foreign nationals claiming to be engaged in humanitarian activities.
An official at Mogadishu airport said one of the planes had flown in from Nairobi, while they were yet to determine the origin of the second.
Sources conversant with the case in Nairobi said the second plane flew in from Seychelles where the occupants collected the ransom money before heading to Mogadishu to pay pirates and take the balance to piracy masterminds based in Kenya.
“However, the deal went sour after those involved discovered that the planes had more money than what the pirates were to be paid, resulting in the planes being detained,” the source, conversant with maritime and piracy issues, said.
The capture of the planes confirms reports that Kenyan companies are beneficiaries of piracy.
On July 18, 2010, Daily Nation revealed how piracy and the big money being made out of it is seeping into Kenya’s economic fabric, presenting a serious threat to the economy as well as law and order.
Nation investigations revealed how Kenyan law firms, security, aviation and shipping companies are doing business with pirates in the Indian Ocean.
More than $80 million (Sh6.5 billion) is paid to Somali pirates as ransom annually, some of which is thought to pass through Kenya.
The piracy, which is being fuelled by lack of an effective central government in Mogadishu, is costing the world economy up to $18 billion (Sh1.45 trillion) each year, according to International Maritime Bureau estimates.
Kenyan companies are thought to act as links between pirates and ship owners, facilitating ransom negotiations and payment.
A report by the World Peace Foundation, an international think-tank bringing together scholars, diplomats, lawyers, military officers and maritime partners working on an initiative to combat piracy, claims that Kenya is among countries whose firms play a key role in driving piracy along the Somali coast.
The report says that piracy in Somalia is controlled by about 1,500 pirates, organised in seven syndicates with a “few bosses” running separate but linked enterprises.
They are all largely run from Kenya, Dubai, Lebanon, Somalia and some European countries, the report claims.
According to the report, the largest ransom amount the pirates had received so far was Sh574 million or $7 million for the release of a Greek-owned oil tanker early this year.
Kenyan lawyers and security firms facilitate negotiations and preparation of agreements, while aviation and shipping companies deliver ransom payments to the pirates in Somalia.