05 Jun 2013
June 5, 2013

The Bounty Hunters


The United States ‘Rewards for Justice Programme’ has announced a $7m bounty for information leading to the capture of Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorist group leader Abubakar Shekau.  This is somewhat below the $25m offered for Al Qaeda leader Ayan al Zawahiri, and a few others at the $10m dollar mark, but it’s a lot of cash.  What’s more, quite a few of Abubakar’s buddies are worth several million dollars too.  The money is for information, of course, not a body.  It’s isn’t exactly Django Unchained, but maybe it’s not so far away from that either.

No doubt the CIA, Nigeria’s security services and other agencies from across Africa and elsewhere in the world are doing their best to seek out these wanted folk. But it did take 10 years to find Osama Bin Laden, so maybe we shouldn’t hold our breath for an early result.

On the other hand, there are an awful lot of people out there very well qualified to have a serious poke at the challenge and the money on offer is certainly enough to provide adequate funding.

People who work in intelligence and military jobs are usually not especially well paid.  The former have always struck me as an odd bunch, too, since most of them are recruited to the role because they’re attracted to the idea of working on secret stuff.  From a personality point of view, that’s a bit like being attracted to joining the Police because you want to be able to arrest people.  Such people need to be quite self-abnegating throughout their careers and as they spend longer in the role the early excitement of working on secret stuff gives way, in terms of motivation, to thoughts of promotion and, eventually, early pensions.

In the past, there hasn’t been that much call for retired spies.  In the present world security environment, though, plus the trend for the United States to contract out much of the legwork, there are plenty of jobs for high-grade mid-career spies who might have given up on promotion and who fancy doubling or tripling their salary.

The same is true of special forces soldiers.  The difference with troops is that they tend to have been used and discarded by their nations by their late 20s or early 30s – the money’s rubbish for the dangerous jobs they do and their skills are honed.

Huge US security companies like Academi do a roaring trade in the world’s hotspots these days.   More quietly, though, enormously successful UK companies from Control Risks to Olive use former UK security and service personnel to great effect, often in subtle ways, across the world.  They save lives on a daily basis.

Maybe the companies I’ve mentioned are too big to be tempted by the sort of money on offer by the US ‘Rewards for Justice’ programme.

But there are plenty of smaller operations around who might think it worthwhile to seek out some imaginative venture capital outfit.  For few million dollars of speculation in return for possibly high returns, they could put together an impressive effort to bag a few terrorists.

Anti-piracy off Somalia has been radically reduced, in effect it’s almost stopped, in large part through the efforts of UK companies with highly-trained UK personnel quietly popping armed guards on supertankers.  No ship with an armed security team on board has ever been successfully attacked.  Casualties are very low, as pirates keep away from  people with guns. The companies who do this kind of work, like  Redfour and Gemini are almost invariably British, but working with local people; they go about their business quietly, sensitively and with enormous success – ask ships’ insurers at Lloyds.  They’re also very intelligently regulated.  As the work in Somalia tapers down now, it’s moving to the West Coast of Africa – to the Gulf of Guinea and Nigeria.

So perhaps it’s time for some enterprising folk, spurred by the US Rewards for Justice Programme, to put companies with the security and military skills together with the money men in order to create a serious, private sector ‘search’ effort in respect of the Bad Boys of Boko.

It’s a thought…..