Horn of Africa pirates netted more than $400 million in ransom money between 2005 and 2012, a new World Bank and UN report says.
Pirate Trails report says the financiers behind the piracy, and not the pirates themselves, collect most of the cash.
The money is then used to fund other criminal operations, including arms and human trafficking.
The report calls for a financial task force to root out the money laundering networks.
Its key findings suggest that financial kingpins collect 30%-50% of the total ransom, with what it calls the “foot soldiers” only getting a standard fee.
This amounts to $30,000 to $75,000 per ship, or just 0.01% to 0.025% of an average ransom payment.
Horn of Africa pirates netted more than $400 million in ransom money between 2005 and 2012
The report says the local community in Somalia “provides goods and services to pirates, including food, repair services and khat”.
Khat is a legal stimulant in Somalia.
The report says the financiers invest in both criminal activities and legitimate business interests.
It says: “The proceeds are typically moved by cross-border cash smuggling, trade-based money laundering, bank-wire transfer and the abuse of the Money of Value Transfer Services.”
The report’s co-author, Stuart Yikona, said: “Unchallenged piracy is not only a menace to stability and security, but it also has the power to corrupt the regional and international economy.”
The report recommends increased monitoring of the financial flows from piracy, improved cross-border controls and better regional co-operation.
Stuart Yikona said: “The international community has mobilized a naval force to deal with the pirates. A similarly managed multinational effort is needed to disrupt and halt the flow of illicit money that circulates in the wake of their activities.”
The haul in ransom cash between 2005 and 2012 was put at between $339 million and $413 million.
Up to 10 EU naval ships now patrol the waters off the Horn of Africa, which are some of the world’s busiest shipping and humanitarian aid routes.
The anti-piracy force’s mandate, which first started in 2008, was expanded earlier this year and it is now allowed to carry out attacks on the Somali coast against suspected pirates.
Fourteen Greenpeace activists have been charged with piracy by the Russian authorities.
They were among a 30-strong crew on a Greenpeace ship that was protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic.
The group was arrested last month after two of the protesters tried to board an oil platform owned by the Russian state-controlled firm Gazprom.
Greenpeace has called the charges “irrational, absurd and an outrage”.
The 14 activists were taken from jail to the Murmansk office of the Investigative Committee, the Russian equivalent of the FBI.
There they were formally charged with “piracy of an organized group”, an offence that carries a 15-year prison sentence.
Those charged include Kieron Bryan, a freelance video producer from London; Anthony Perrett from Newport in Wales; Alexandra Harris, originally from Devon, and Philip Ball from Chipping Norton.
Fourteen Greenpeace activists have been charged with piracy by the Russian authorities
Greenpeace said more activists are expected to be formally charged on Thursday.
The group’s international executive director, Kumi Naidoo, said the charges were “extreme and disproportionate”.
“A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience. This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest,” Reuters news agency quoted Kumi Naidoo as saying.
Kumi Naidoo said the way Russian officials had treated the protesters represented “the most serious threat to Greenpeace’s peaceful environmental activism” since the bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand in 1985, when the group was campaigning against French nuclear testing in the Pacific.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously said the activists were “not pirates”, but may have broken international law.
The Investigative Committee said earlier this week that peaceful aims would not justify what it has described as an “attack” that posed a threat to the rig and its personnel.
Last month the Greenpeace ship approached the Prirazlomnaya platform, Russia’s first offshore oil rig which is scheduled to start operating by the end of the year.
Two activists tried to climb up onto the platform and tie themselves onto it, in an attempt to draw attention to the issue of the expansion of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Ocean.
They were detained after a short skirmish in inflatable dinghies in which armed Russian FSB officers in balaclavas fired warning shots into the water.
Greenpeace has released cameraphone images it says show the moment Russian security forces boarded the Arctic Sunrise ship.
The Arctic Sunrise ship, with its crew comprising 18 nationalities, was then towed to Murmansk.