UPDATE on The $50m contract to fight piracy… the unknown paying the lesser known

Top Cat Marine Security is registered under Laura Casini, Esq. at what seems like a residential location.I mention the location because there are some interesting circumstances
surrounding this company. It had moved its operations to St Stephen,
South Carolina, to the great expectations of the locals. But, then in Oct 2004, things changed according to the local news: "the
door to Top Cat is padlocked, the company is facing
eviction, one of its top officials has been arrested on a charge of
issuing a fraudulent check and a default judgment was issued against
the company Monday." Interesting bit is the title of Peter Casini:
Chief Operating Officer. He seems to have gotten a promotion in the
last year, but in a Reuters article he’s head of research and development.

Removed from the site TopCat Marine Security site
recently is their address after some have questioned their shared
location with other sites Here’s the cached version.
It seems they share an answering service with other firms (after doing
some WhoIs searching and google address search). The office of record
is just a phone bank. Not particularly normal for a firm awarded with a
$50m international contract.

The webmaster, as of this writing, broke all the links on TopCat Marine Security, all
links now begin with: file:///macintosh%20hd/users/brian/desktop/. A little fidgeting, and the press release for the Somalia contract is available here:

Somalia, which hasn’t had an effective government since 1991, can’t deal with the pirates — and the U.S. government this week advised ships to travel in convoys or simply stay away. Top Cat’s strategy is to go
after the "mother ship" that launches small, high-speed boats
some 100 miles off the coast to carry out the attacks.

"Our goal is to take the mother ship," Casini said from Nairobi,
Kenya. "To disable, to disarm, whatever it takes."

Under their contract the company will set up five bases where former Navy
SEALs and Army Special Forces members will train the anti-pirate teams.
The firm will also provide state-of-the-art patrol boats, backed by helicopters, to go after the mother ship.

The final comments:

  • Where’s the money coming from? CNN/Reuters would like asks…
  • From the PMC commentators… "how long until a pirate attack w/ a Cobra boat?"
  • The State Department had to approve this contract. Some reports list the contract at $55 million, but that exceeds the min for notifying Congress. Likely it is just below ($49.9m), but it still required State approval.

:: SEE UPDATE 2 ::
This updates a previous article

The $50m contract to fight piracy… the unknown paying the lesser known

On 25 November 2005, the "Transitional Federal Government of Somalia" signed a $50m deal with US private marine security company Top Cat Marine Security, Inc. to "establish new Somalia Coast Guard and Security Forces". The press release on Top Cat’s website was unavailable as of this writing (403 error). According to a Chinese online newspaper, Topcat "will help fight terrorism, curb illegal fishing and combat pirates, who have used speed boats, automatic weapons and satellite phones to target UN-chartered ships and other vessels." This may provide to be an interesting case study on private security forces.

The progenitor of Topcat is likely CobraBoats, the firm owned by Peter Casini, Jr. Mr Casini holds the patents on the high-speed boat technology (see sections for 8 Feb 01 and 18 Mar 02) that Topcat was likely created to hire out.

Not sure if there’s anything to it, but Xinhua reports the deal was with "Somali Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Hassan Abshir Farah" and Topcat and not the head of state Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, as reported by BBC.

The absence of a functioning government in Somalia raises the obvious questions of who is funding this operation. The cost of the contract is actually curious itself: $50m. This is at, and likely just below, the threshold of required to notify Congress for contracting of defense services. It was hard to read, but it also seems Somalia is still an embargoed country, without an update since 1993.

The long of it is the Bush Administration has allowed this to take place. Why? To provide additional security through tax payer dollars to the region? Or is NATO or the EU picking up part of the bill? Highly doubtful.

:: See related Somalia posts here ::