A Somali court has jailed six foreigners, including an American, three Britons and two Kenyans, for illegally bringing $3.6 million in cash into the country, allegedly to pay ransoms to pirates in Somalia.
The American and one of the Britons, accused of carrying the cash, received 15-year sentences and fines of $15,000. The court sentenced the others to 10 years in jail and fines of $10,000 each.
This is the first time Westerners have been sentenced for involvement in delivering ransoms to pirates who were holding hijacked ships, according to the BBC.
The six men were arrested May 24 shortly after their plane landed at the airport in Mogadishu, the capital. They were waiting for another small aircraft to come in, allegedly to take the cash and fly it to another location, according to the South African Press Association.
Both aircraft and the money they were transporting had been confiscated by the government, Mohamed Omar, a Somali government security official, told SAPA.
But the exact circumstances behind the planned payment were not known.
The Mogadishu court's judge, Hashi Elmi, told Reuters that all six men "can appeal, and if they ask to pay more instead of [remaining in] prison then we shall see and take our decision."
While it is illegal in Somalia to the pay ransoms to pirates, the practice is routine, Reuters reports. The U.N. says that more than $110 million in ransoms were paid to Somali pirates last year.
In London, the Foreign Office said that it has told the authorities in Mogadishu to ensure the safety of the group while legal options are considered.