Pakistan may opt to cut a deal with Somali pirates for the release of its seven nationals out of the total 22 crew held hostage on board the Malaysian Flagship MV Albedo.
The crew’s fate hangs in the balance as the Pakistani side, led by the Citizens Police Liaison Committee chief Ahmed Chinoy, and Malaysian state body’s Security Council officials squabble over how much money each side should pay, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The lack of trust between the two sides has come to the point where there is a disagreement even over how the money would be eventually handed over to the pirates.
Senior Malaysian officials, CPLC chief Chinoy and representatives of Somali pirates were in Dubai until last week to cut a deal which didn’t materialise.
Of all 22 hostages, seven each are from Pakistan and Bangladesh, six from Sri Lanka, and one each from India and Iran. One Indian sailor has already died since the vessel was captured in November 2010.
The pirates had demanded $10 million dollar in ransom. The amount has, however, been reduced to $2.85 million since.
Chinoy is under pressure from the families of Pakistani sailors to get their men freed first using the amount collected in Pakistan if other states involved do not agree with his terms.
When the pirates learnt that Pakistan has collected around $1million, they piled pressure on Chinoy to transfer the money. Chinoy has resisted the pressure, thus far.
According to two letters shared by the vessel’s Iranian owner, Chinoy had written on March 19 that “On our part we are making arrangements to have $1.6 million to be ready on April 10.”
He requested the owner to arrange the rest of the amount.
On April 16, a countrywide campaign began in Pakistan to collect money for the ransom. Humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi donated Rs2.5 million. However, the campaign could muster around $200,000, which was well short of the $1.6 million target, according to the CPLC.
However, a Pakistani businessman promised to donate
Rs130 million (approximately $1.4 million) to cover the deficit.
The CPLC chief claimed that the businessman donated about $875,000 instead of the promised $1.4 million.
The businessman had donated a total of Rs160 million for securing the release of Pakistani crew of two ships – MV Suez and MV Albedo, his spokesperson clarified.
Social worker Ansar Burney, who was at the forefront in the MV Suez case, said the businessman had contributed Rs10 million for the release of the hostages.
If the businessman donated Rs10 million in the MV Suez case, the CPLC chief still should have Rs150 million ($1.6 million) from the businessman’s contribution. Chinoy, however, denies any wrongdoing.
The CPLC chief says he never made a ‘final commitment’ of $1.6 million to the Malaysian side.
He showed copies of letters dated in April and June, where it was agreed between him and the Malaysian side that Pakistan would provide $1.1 million, while the rest would be arranged by them.
The vessel owner, however, believes Chinoy was involved in ‘fishy business’ and blamed him for the Malaysian side’s hesitation to support the deal.
“There is a $500,000 difference between $1.1 million and $1.6 million. Where did this money go,” Omid Khosrojerid asked.
While Chinoy tried to convince the Malaysian side that $1.1 million was all he was able to arrange, they reminded him of the agreement which he had signed.
Although the Malaysian side didn’t give an assurance that they would pay the rest of the money, it has now demanded Chinoy to transfer $1.1 million into their account so that they could secure the release of the hostages. However, Khosrojerdi said in an email that “Ahmed has refused to transfer the money to the Malaysian embassy in Dubai.”
The Malaysian officials had set Chinoy a deadline for the money transfer – which has lapsed when the three sides were engaged in negotiations in Dubai.
Chinoy, who has transferred part of the ransom to a money changer in Nairobi, refused to transfer the money when the Malaysian side said they could not guarantee the crew’s safety.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Masood Khalid defended Chinoy and castigated the vessel owner. “Who knows the motives of Omid Khosrojerdi, who is making allegations?”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012.
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