As far as illicit businesses with low risk and high rewards go, it doesn’t get much better than piracy on the high seas. The profit margins can easily surpass those of the cocaine trade. The risks?
“There is no reason not to be a pirate,” according to U.S. Vice Admiral William Gortney, who commands the U.S. navy’s Fifth Fleet. “The vessel I’m trying to pirate, they won’t shoot at me. I’m going to get my money.”
Even pirates who are intercepted have little to fear. “They won’t arrest me because there’s no place to try me.”
Gortney’s assessment of piracy’s low risk came in a radio interview that focused on the Gulf of Aden, where Somali pirates this month capped a string of increasingly brazen hijackings by seizing a Saudi supertanker carrying $100 million worth of U.S.-bound crude. But although attention is focused on the Horn of Africa, piracy is a global phenomenon (see map), relative impunity applies in many places, and a thick legal fog hangs over effective action.