A pirate's life: Fake film project nabs Somalia's Big Mouth

Posted by Matthew Schofield McClatchy Foreign Staff on October 16, 2013 

Belgian police lure fugitive to their soil

BERLIN The Belgian police plot to capture alleged Somali pirate sponsor Mohamed Abdi Hassan is being described as elaborate, tricky, ingenious.

But as Hassan takes pride in the nickname “Afweyne,” or “Big Mouth,” it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that the allure of bright lights and fame led to his arrest. Belgian police put together a fake film project about Somali pirates. Hassan flew to Brussels willingly, thinking he was signing a contract to advise filmmakers on a documentary.

Instead, according to Belgian police, as he left the plane Saturday, he was arrested. He has now been charged with hijacking, kidnapping and running a criminal organization, according to press reports. The charges revolve around what authorities insist was his 2009 seizure of the Belgian dredger Pompeii, and the $2.7 million ransom he extracted for the release of the ship and its crew.

In a statement, Belgian Prosecutor Johan Delmulle said, “He's one of the most important and infamous kingpin pirate leaders, responsible for the hijacking of dozens of commercial vessels from 2008 to 2013."

Hassan, now 60, had reason to think he was worthy of a film. His story has elements of Hollywood written into it.

Beyond allegedly running one of the world’s most notorious pirate gangs, and also allegedly controlling a criminal empire that dealt in khat (a commonly chewed plant that acts like an upper, and which has been classified as a drug by many national drug agencies).

Earlier this year, he added a Hollywood twist to this story when he very publicly announced his retirement from swashbuckling.

He said at the time that he planned to work with young people to convince them that the pirates’ life was not for them.

The police sting took several months to complete, and began when undercover agents in Somalia approached  a friend of his named Tiiceey, who was arrested with him.

 

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