A federal court judge in Norfolk, Va., ordered a Somali pirate on Monday to serve a dozen life sentences in prison for his role in the hijacking of a German merchant vessel and a U.S. cruising sailboat, saying the hostage negotiator was lucky he wasn't facing the death penalty.
Mohammad Saaili Shibin is considered by U.S. authorities to be the highest-ranking pirate they have ever captured, according to published reports. Shibin had direct ties to those who finance pirate operations from ashore in largely lawless Somalia.
Four Americans aboard the 58-foot sloop Quest were shot to death by pirates after being hijacked off Oman in 2011. The crew aboard the merchant vessel was tortured to get a higher ransom in 2010.
"I think this case explodes the myth, if still it exists out there, that pirates are some kind of romantic swashbuckling characters from Hollywood summer movies. This case showed that pirates are brutal, greedy, reckless, desperate criminals who will kidnap, torture and ultimately kill hostages in pursuit of their financial greed," U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride told the Associated Press after the sentencing.
Meanwhile, a report by Reuters said that in 2011 Somali pirates reportedly cost the world economy $7 billion and earned $160 million in ransoms.
In related news, Armed Piracy Defense, a private firm based in southern Florida, is offering security services for ships.
“APD is an anti-piracy security company that provides armed security teams for vessels transiting piracy-prone waters, providing armed and unarmed protection forces and guards to ships transiting through the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden, Somalia and the Red Sea,” the company says on its website. “All our security personnel are individually selected from the elite ranks of the Navy SEALs.”
For $3,500 to $3,800 a day, ships can hire three guards to keep their crew and cargo safe.