Somalia’s fearsome pirates have been in the news a lot in recent years because of their kidnap and ransom operations off the Somali coast but they have also spawned another lucrative industry: actors posing as pirates to western journalists.
Channel 4 reporter Jamal Osman says he found actors in Kenya – where many journalists travel in search of pirates – who admit to hamming it up for the television cameras in exchange for money.
The scam works like this: unsuspecting journalists hire a fixer who agrees to set up the interviews for a price. But the fixer is in cahoots with the actors. Journalists are sent on a false wild goose chase for days in search for the elusive pirates.
Adan, whose day job is at a restaurant told the network: "They (journalists) go to the boss and say we need pirates. The boss comes to us and says the white men need pirates. So he says, 'pretend to be a pirate.'"
He says he earns $200 for each gig. “I depend on myself. I'm an asset, not a liability."
Osman, who is a Somali, spotted the pirates as implausible because their accents placed them as Borans, an ethnic group in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. So they aren’t even Somali. One of them hadn’t even been to Somalia.
Adan told Osman he had no regrets. "You know, western guys they think the Africans are fools. But we have discovered we are not fools. We are much cleverer than the western people. We are fooling them, but they think they are fooling us."
Channel 4 says Time magazine and Danish Broadcasting Corporation DR have fallen for the scam.
Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at the Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour