Washington: A Somali national, found guilty of negotiating the ransom from the US and Indian nationals held hostage on the high seas, has been sentenced by a US court to multiple concurrent life sentences.
Mohammad Saaili Shibin, aka `Khalif Ahmed Shibin` aka `Shibin` was convicted for negotiating the ransom for an American yacht, the `S/V Quest`, and `Marida Marguerite`, a German-owned vessel manned primarily by Indian seafarers.
Several Indian crew members of the German-owned vessel provided crucial testimony regarding the hijacking and their eight months in captivity in Somalia, US officials said, acknowledging the role played by the Indian seafarers in bringing Somali pirates to justice.
Shibin was sentenced to 10 concurrent life sentences for piracy, two consecutive life sentences for the use of a rocket propelled grenade and automatic weapons during crimes of violence, 10 years consecutive on six counts of discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, and two 20 year sentences for the remaining counts of discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence.
Shibin, the 18th Somali pirate convicted by the Department of Justice office, is also required to pay restitution in the amount of approximately USD 5,408,000, the US Department of Justice said.
The convict was previously found guilty of all counts of a superseding indictment by a federal jury on April 27.
Crew members of the M/V Marida Marguerite had testified that they were brutally tortured while being held hostage.
"Mohammed Shibin was a key participant in two of the most heinous acts of piracy in modern memory. Last year, his confederates seized the S/V Quest and murdered four defenseless Americans, and in 2010 the crew members of the M/V Marida Marguerite were brutally tortured by Shibin and his pirate conspirators to extract a USD 5 million reward," the Department of Justice said.
It further held that the Somalian piracy criminal enterprise could not function without "skilled negotiators" like Shibin and his multiple life sentences "should put all pirates on notice" that the Justice Department will hold them accountable for crimes on the high seas.
According to court documents and trial testimony, as the US military attempted to negotiate the release of four American citizens held hostage on board the S/V Quest, they were informed by one of the conspirators that Shibin was the person responsible for negotiating the return of the hostages upon their arrival in Somalia.
During the period of negotiation, Shibin conducted research on the Internet to learn about the hostages on the Quest and determine the amount of ransom to demand, along with the identity of family members of the hostages whom he could contact about the ransom.
However, while the military continued negotiations to secure the hostages` release, the four hostages were intentionally shot and killed, the department said.
Court documents and testimony also proved that Shibin was the ransom negotiator for the conspirators who pirated the Marida Marguerite with a crew of 22 men held hostage off the coast of Somalia from May to December 2010.
Shibin, who spoke with the owners of the vessel to successfully extract a ransom payment from them, received approximately USD 30,000 to USD 50,000 in US currency as his share of payment.