NORFOLK, Va. – A federal judge 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. yacht, saying he 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. Shibin had direct ties to those who finance pirate operations from ashore in largely lawless Somalia.
Four Americans aboard the Quest were shot to death by pirates off the coast of Africa in 2011, and the crew on the other vessel was tortured to get a higher ransom in 2010.
U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar told Shibin he was “very lucky” he wasn’t facing a death sentence, although no death-penalty-eligible charges were brought against him. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the three men charged with shooting the Americans. Eleven other men in the case who boarded the Quest have already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to life in prison.
The yacht owners, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., along with friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were the first U.S. citizens killed in a wave of pirate attacks that have plagued the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean despite a regular patrol of international warships. Shibin was convicted earlier this year of the 15 charges he faced, including piracy, kidnapping and hostage-taking. Of the 12 life sentences, 10 of them will run concurrently while two were ordered to be served consecutively. Shibin was also ordered to pay $5.4 million in restitution.
Shibin attorney James Broccoletti said he will appeal the conviction.