Pirates, oil smugglers and thieving local tycoons create employment, stimulates trade opportunities and provide services - with the moneys they obtain through robbery, theft and fraud.

Pirates are much loved in Eyl, Somalia, where many businesses are booming thanks to their financial injections and needs. Beninese oil smugglers provide employment for hundreds of people in coastal towns, and help subsidize transport and other small businesses. Nigerian politician James Ibori, currently serving a 13 year sentence in the UK for his financial crimes - which included stealing millions of public funds and depositing them in banks accounts all over the world -, is seen as a Robin Hood in his hometown Ogara, where he has provided markets and a transport industry for farmers, as well as schools, hotels, and traffic lights.

The Forum for African Investigative Reporters investigated 'social bandits' in several African countries and came to the conclusion that illegality and growth can go hand in hand. The Transnational Investigation was a finalist in the Global Investigative Journalism Network's Daniel Pearl Awards. Read the full investigation

Picture: Mohamed Kadir