Payments to Pirates Can Be Perilous for Involved Banks, Say Former Agents

By Brian Monroe

Financial institutions that allow transactions used to pay off ship hijackers may later face prosecutions, regulatory action or civil lawsuits for furthering an illegal act, say former law enforcement investigators. Instances of attacks on maritime vessels-from fishing trawlers to oil tankers-have risen in the past three years, driven by criminal groups in Africa and Southeast Asia that hold the ships captive until receiving payments that can reach into the millions of dollars. In the first nine months of 2008, pirates attacked ships 200 times worldwide, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre. That rate is on par...