Belgium has arrested a notorious Somalian pirate boss after luring him to Brussels on promises of shooting a documentary movie about his life on the high seas, prosecutors said on Monday.
Federal prosecutor Johan Delmulle said Mohamed Abdi Hassan, better known as “Afweyne” or “Big Mouth,” was being held in the Belgian city of Bruges after being detained at Brussels airport on Saturday when he stepped off a flight from Nairobi.
Afweyne and his powerful accomplice, Mohamed Aden “Tiiceey,” the former governor of Somalia’s self-proclaimed Himan and Heeb statelet, were facing charges of kidnapping, piracy and organized crime, the prosecutor said in a statement he read to the press in French and Dutch.
The charges followed the 2009 capture of a Belgian ship, the Pompei, seized and held by pirates off the Somalian coast for more than 70 days.
Afweyne announced in Mogadishu in January that he was quitting piracy after a highly profitable eight-year career. He said he was working to persuade other pirates to do the same.
A UN report has described him as one of the lynchpins in the piracy business, which made a fortune attacking dozens of merchant vessels between 2008 and this year.
The Pompei was captured by dozens of pirates 1,126.5km off Somalia in the Indian Ocean. The nine crew members, including two Belgian officers and the Dutch captain, were held in grueling conditions until a ransom was dropped by parachute.
An inquiry led to the arrest and conviction of two of the pirates, one sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2011, the other to nine years last year.
However, the Belgian prosecutor’s office had not let up its determination to bring to book the people “behind this act of piracy, who ordered, financed and organized logistical backup,” Delmulle said.
In the case of the Pompei, Belgian police suspected Afweyne of organizing and financing the attack after questioning one of the officers and hearing evidence from some of the pirates.
As he was a resident of Somalia and rarely traveled, police “elaborated an infiltration operation aimed at arresting Afweyne outside of Somalia,” the prosecutor said.
“The plan was to approach Afweyne through the intermediary of his accomplice named Tiiceey,” his statement added.
“Via Tiiceey, Afweyne was asked to collaborate as an advisor and expert on a film project on maritime piracy. The film was supposed to reflect his life as a pirate,” the statement said.
However, when Afweyne and Tiiceey landed on Saturday morning to sign the movie contract, “they were awaited and taken into custody,” the prosecutor said.
Described last year by the UN as “one of the most notorious and influential leaders” in Somalia’s pirate hub, Afweyne notably was involved in the 2008 capture of the Saudi-owned Sirius Star oil supertanker, released for a ransom of several million dollars.