A US court has sentenced a Somali man to 12 life sentences after being found guilty of his role in the deaths of four Americans in 2011 at the hands of pirates.
A US federal court judge in Norfolk, Virginia on Monday sentenced a Somali man to 12 concurrent life sentences and two 20-year sentences after he was found guilty of acting as a ransom negotiator for pirates who commandeered an American yacht.
"Mohammed Shibin was a key participant in two of the most heinous acts of piracy in modern memory," US prosecutor Neil MacBride said in a statement following sentencing.
Federal prosecutors presented claims Shibin was part of an elite group skilled in ransom negotiation. Court documents reveal he was paid up to $50,000 (40,400 euros) in cash for his services.
In evidence presented to the court, prosecutors proved Shibin used the Internet to research the background of hostages to establish how much ransom to demand and which family members to make contact with for the money.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Doumar found Mohammad Shibin guilty in April on 15 counts, including piracy, hostage taking, kidnapping and conspiracy. He was ordered to pay $5.4 million in damages.
Pirates seized a boat carrying four Americans off the coast off Somalia in February 2011. Despite US military attempts to negotiate the release of Jean and Scott Adam, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, all four were killed. The court held Shibin made monetary demands to each of their families prior to their murders.
In 2010, Shibin acted as a ransom negotiator for pirates who seized the Marida Marguerite, a German-owned motor vessel carrying 22 crew members. The group took control of the ship for seven months, with reports of torture by those on board.
In a recent report by the International Maritime Bureau, Somali piracy cost the global economy more than $7 billion, with pirates earning some $160 million from ransom demands.
"[Shibin's] multiple life sentences should put all pirates on notice that the Justice Department will hold you accountable in a US courtroom for crimes on the high seas," MacBride said.
jlw/mz (DAPD, Reuters, AP)