To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the assistance given by the Serious Organised Crime Agency to the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions and Intelligence Co-ordination Centre in the Seychelles will include information gleaned from suspicious activity reports.
My Lords, no decision has been made on whether SOCA will share information from suspicious activity reports with the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions and Intelligence Co-ordination Centre. We are still determining the centre’s requirements, which will include safeguards for the protection of personal data.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response—although, alas, there is not a huge amount to thank him for but just a little bit—but I should be grateful if he would ensure that we are told when a decision has been reached on this matter. Would he not agree, moreover, that now that the Government are getting a better grip on all aspects of the problems of Somalia, including that of piracy, it is high time that the Government insisted that anyone assembling a ransom should file a suspicious activity report about that? Would he also confirm that the Prime Minister has now asked for a proper study to be made of all aspects of the issue of assembling ransoms?
My Lords, I thought that my Answer was quite helpful. However, I can give the noble Lord an assurance that he will be told, and the House will be informed, when we have made a decision. As regards whether SARs should be used whenever a ransom has been paid, the paying of ransom, as the noble Lord will be aware, is not illegal as such, although we deplore the practice because we do not think it assists. I can also confirm that, as the noble Lord put it, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister does want further work to be looked at in this area to see whether it should be something for which a SAR should automatically be filed if that is the case.
My Lords, it has been known for some time that terrorist groups such as AQIM have used kidnap for ransom as a source of income. Why did the Government not mention this in the course of the extended correspondence with the EU Select Committee about piracy off the coast of Somalia?
My Lords, we made it clear that we do not believe that the money going in ransoms to—if I can put it this way—the ordinary Somali pirates is generally going into terrorists’ hands. What is being gathered by AQIM is coming from other kidnapping operations and, as the noble Lord will be aware, there is a very good chance that that is going into terrorism operations, in which case it would be illegal to pay that ransom.
My Lords, given that the money-laundering regulations, which are part of the law now, make it perfectly clear that any payment made in connection with a criminal activity has to be reported to the government authorities and that consent has to be given before any payments are made, why has there been a de facto exemption in the case of payments negotiated by insurance companies or their representatives for ransoms in connection with piracy, which, whatever else it is, is clearly a criminal activity?
My Lords, the simple fact is that, much as we deplore the payment of ransoms—Her Majesty's Government have made that clear for some time—they are not illegal as such. That is why, in answer to the supplementary question from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, I made it clear that the Prime Minister has asked for work to be conducted in this field.