Our guest of episode 52 is Anja Shortland, who is a Professor of Political Economy at King’s College London. Her teaching focuses on the economics of crime and she researches the world’s trickiest trades: the resolution of hostage crises and piracy incidents, stolen and looted art, and ransomware.
“Having studied civil wars and political violence, I was surprised by how well ordered the trade in hijacked ships seemed to be. I thought that this was presumably the trickiest thing that you could possibly do, and yet, everyone from the ship owners, the cruise, and the pirates seemed to assume that this was just a business transaction that would resolve itself positively for everyone”
– Anja Shortland, The International Risk Podcast
Anja is particularly interested in the role of insurers in helping crime victims to conduct business transactions across the ragged edge between the legal economy and the economic underworld. Her 2019 book “Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business” studies how the market for hostages functions and in particular, how kidnappers manage their operations in what is evidently a high risk environment.
In addition to her work on the political economy of kidnap-for-ransom, Anja has also delved into the complexities of stolen and looted art. Her recent book, “Lost Art” analyses how people resolve competing ownership claims over valuable artworks.
““It’s a private governance solution that comes out of the need of the art world that says ‘we need to deal with this risk, we cannot be reputable dealers and land our customers with this kind of problem”. We need to have a solution which shows we’ve done our due diligence.”
-Anja Shortland, The International Risk Podcast
Currently, Anja is working on an exciting new project on ransomware that concerns how insurers are going to resolve the issues of keeping cybercrime insurable.
You can read more about Anja and her work here: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/people/anja-shortland-1
Listen to the episode with Anja Shortland
I was closely involved in the logistics of ransom delivery during the years when Somali maritime piracy and kidnapping of land based personnel was active. Anja is correct to make it clear that professionals and not governments should negotiate with criminals even when governments end up footing the bill. The most tragic and unnecessary outcome of government involvement was the death of 4 American missionaries. Their yacht was captured by Somali pirates and then pursued by a US naval flotilla. The pirates panicked and murdered the 4 Americans. Half a million dollars and six months captivity would probably have solved the problem if the US Navy had not intervened.