A Somali man accused of negotiating a ransom after pirates seized a merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden has been brought to the United States to face criminal charges, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

It said that Ali Mohamed Ali, 48, was charged with conspiracy to commit piracy, piracy, attack to plunder a vessel and aiding and abetting in the crimes. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to life in prison.

Ali and others were charged with conspiring to take over the M/V CEC Future, a Danish-owned vessel carrying American cargo, in a bid to hold the crew and cargo for ransom.

Somali pirates seized the ship off the coast of Somalia on November 7, 2008, and held it for more than two months. It was released on January 16, 2009, after the owner, Clipper Group, paid $1.7 million in ransom.

Justice Department officials said Ali was scheduled to appear in federal court in Washington on April 26.

According to a federal grand jury indictment, Ali boarded the ship within two or three days of the attack. He allegedly communicated with the ship’s owners and demanded $7 million in ransom, and then agreed to accept $1.7 million.

This month another Somali man received a 25-year prison sentence for his role in hijacking the vessel.

Pirates operating off the coast of Somalia have hijacked vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden for years, making millions of dollars in ransoms by seizing ships including oil tankers.

Ali was the latest of more than 25 Somalis who have been captured by the United States over the past year to face piracy and other criminal charges in U.S. courts.

 SBC + Agencies