Friday, March 18, 2016

Somali Pirate Kingpin Gets 20 Years for Hijacking Dredging Vessel

But What of the Forgotten 40+ Souls Still Held After 4 Years?
Shipping News Feature
BELGIUM – SOMALIA – Somali pirate kingpin Mohamed Abdi Hassan has been sentenced by a Belgian court to 20 years in prison for the hijacking of the Pompei, a 1,850 dwt Belgian subsea rock installation vessel (designed to protect pipelines etc.), captured by pirates in April 2009 and the first ship from that country to be taken off the Somali coast. The hijacking of the Pompei was in part responsible for the extension of activities by the EU Operation Atalanta anti pirate force.

Due to an oversight by the prosecution, the court did not order the confiscation of the millions of euros Hassan and his ‘associate’ and compatriot, Mohamed Moalin-Aden gained from their crimes, though the court ordered Hassan to pay more than €20,000 to the vessel’s Dutch Captain and his family.

Hassan, also known as Afweyne (‘Big Mouth’), was arrested after a sting operation in Belgium in October 2013, along with Moalin-Aden, nicknamed Tiiceey. Through Tiiceey, Afweyne had been invited to consult on a documentary about their piracy exploits and after months of talks with what turned out to be undercover agents, they both flew out to Brussels where they were arrested upon entry at Brussels international airport. In January 2013, Afweyne announced his retirement from the piracy business and renounced crime claiming that he successfully managed to convince many of his ‘colleagues’ to follow suit.

Tiiceey received five years for his involvement with Afweyne's criminal network but was acquitted of the charges related to the Pompei due to lack of evidence. The trial began in September 2015 during which the Federal Prosecutor, Marianne Cappelle called for the court to confiscate €10 million from Afweyne and €3 million from Tiiceey. The defence was quick to point out that the prosecutor failed to detail the amount of the forfeiture in the written documents. It was agreed that a written claim would be provided at the next session, which was in January 2016, but that never came to fruition, therefore no forfeiture order.

The ten crewmembers of the Pompei were held hostage for 70 days before a ransom of €2 million was paid to the hijackers. At the time of the vessel’s release, 12 other ships were held hostage in Somalia, with about 200 seafarers on board. While numbers of hijacked ships peaked in Somalia at 49 ships in 2010, involving the captivity of over 800 seafarers, they have now significantly reduced, however, there remain in Somalia 26 seafarers from the Naham 3 who, on the 26 March 2016, will have been held by pirates for four years. Three seafarers from the original crew of 29 have died in captivity. 17 Iranian seafarers held captive in Somalia will also reach their first anniversary on 25 March.