In a bid to evade arrest, one of the 15 pirates apprehended by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard in January told Naval officers that he was hearing and speech impaired. However, officers of the Yellow Gate police station, who are probing the case, caught his lie.
According to the charge sheet, the Navy had acquired details of the 15 pirates through a questionnaire provided to them immediately after their arrest. The questionnaire submitted by 25-year-old Forax Jaame contained only his name, nationality and the words, “deaf and dumb”.
However, the police caught his lie when his statement was recorded.
“He is not impaired in any way. He spoke to us through our translators without any problem,” said Bharat Bhoite, police inspector, Yellow Gate police station.
Officers also said that the pirates do not consider themselves to be offenders.
“They believe they are justified in committing crimes because they come from very poor backgrounds. This is the easiest way for them to make a living,” said an officer on the condition of anonymity.
Deputy commissioner of police (port zone), Quaiser Khalid said, “They are promised hefty rewards for successful hijacks. This drives them to sea piracy.”
The Yellow Gate police filed the charge sheet against the 15 pirates on April 29 at the Ballard Pier court.
The pirates, hailing from Somalia and Ethiopia, were caught on January 28 after they were spotted trying to hijack a merchant vessel off the coast of Lakshadweep.
Meanwhile, in response to the Yellow Gate police’s request for translators, the Somali embassy suggested that the Somali pirates currently in judicial custody be handed over to them.
In a letter dated February 14, the Somali embassy stated, “The embassy of the Republic of Somalia, New Delhi believes that sending the pirates back to Somalia will limit the immediate targeting of Indian seafarers, particularly those already in the hands of the pirates.” The letter is a part of the charge sheet against the 15 pirates.
“We had received the letter from the embassy following which we arranged for translators through our own sources,” said Khalid.
Fifteen Indian sailors were taken hostage by Somali pirates aboard MV Asphalt Venture in September 2010. They refused to release seven hostages, even though OMCI Ship Management, who owns the vessel, paid them a multi-million dollar ransom.
Cops turn negotiators
The Yellow Gate police said that they are helping the government negotiate with Somali pirates for the release of the remaining seven seafarers aboard MV Asphalt Venture.
These are sailors that have been held in Somalia even after the ransom was paid.
“The government has asked us to provide them with background information on the pirates. We have provided the information and are helping the government in the negotiations as we know how to deal with the pirates,” said Quaiser Khalid, deputy commissioner of police (port zone).
On September 28, 2010, the vessel was hijacked by pirates on its way from Kenya to South Africa.