In lawless, destitute Somalia, there’s only one industry booming: piracy. Its shipping lanes have become the world’s most treacherous, with attacks tripling the past 3 years. And though Somali officials decry the attacks, the industry is hardly underground. The New York and Los Angeles Times visited Somalia’s coastal villages, finding an upside-down social structure, with rich, strutting pirates atop the food chain.
In most coastal villages, pirates are the only ones with money—and they spend it lavishly, splurging on prostitutes, fancy cars, even businesses. “Women here don’t talk to you if you’re not a pirate,” said one 21-year-old. Nor do the buccaneers fear international heat after the ongoing Ukrainian freighter drama. “We will consider NATO as the enemy,” said one pirate.