U.S. Court Hands Pirate Negotiator Consecutive Life Sentences

The S/V Quest

The Somali man responsible for negotiating the ransom payment of the hijacked American yacht, S/V Quest, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Earlier this month the U.S. Justice Department handed down 12 consecutive life sentences to Mohammad Saaili Shibin, aka “Shibin,” for his role in negotiating the ransom payment for the release of the S/V Quest, as well as the German-owned, Marida Marguerite, which was held hostage off the coast of Somalia from May to December 2010. The four American hostages in the case of the S/V Quest were murdered in one of the more violent attacks off coast of Somali in recent history.

“Mohammed Shibin was a key participant in two of the most heinous acts of piracy in modern memory,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia who prosecuted the case. “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 $5 million reward. The Somalia 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 you accountable in an U.S. courtroom for crimes on the high seas. Shibin is the 18th Somali pirate my office has convicted.”

During trial, documents revealed as the U.S. military attempted to negotiate the release of four American citizens being held hostage on board the S/V Quest in February 2011, they were informed by one of the conspirators on the Quest that Shibin was the person responsible for ransom negotiations. Evidence at trial showed that during this 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. But while the military continued its negotiations to secure the hostages’ release, the four hostages were intentionally shot and killed.

Court documents and testimony also proved that Shibin was the ransom negotiator for conspirators who pirated the Marida Marguerite, a German-owned vessel with a crew of 22 men who were held hostage off the coast of Somalia from May to December 2010. Shibin spoke with the owners of the vessel and successfully extracted a ransom payment. For his role in the ransom negotiations Shibin received approximately US$30,000 to $50,000. Crew members of the M/V Marida Marguerite testified that they were brutally tortured while being held hostage.

Shibin was found guilty by a federal jury to all 12 counts against him on April 27, 2012.