PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa -- Veteran soldier of fortune Col. 'Mad Mike' Hoare was sentenced today to 10 years in jail and three of his lieutenants were jailed for five years for hijacking a jetliner to escape an abortive coup in the Seychelles.
'Anyone found guilty of the offense of endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight should be severely dealt with,' said Supreme Court Judge Neville James, who Tuesday found Hoare and 41 other white mercenaries guilty on several counts of air piracy.
The judge said he decided to use his discretion, however, in suspending portions of the sentences and also took Hoare's age into account.
The Irish-born Hoare, 62, led a force of white mercenaries in a bungled coup attempt last November on the Indian Ocean island of the Seychelles and escaped with 44 of his men on a hijacked Indian airliner in a blaze of gunfire.
Four of the soldiers of fortune who were left in the Seychelles, have been sentenced to hang for treason against the leftist government.
The coup attempt itself, James said, was 'a farce.' Hoare's gamble that the overthrow of the government would succeed did not pay off and the mercenaries 'found themselves in a position where they were left with virtually no alternative but to make use of the Air India aircraft,' James said.
The judge said the mercenaries were not being sentenced for their involvement in the attempted coup, but for air piracy, by ordering the crew of the airliner to fly them to Durban, South Africa while it was scheduled to fly to Bombay, India.
Hoare, who made his name as a mercenary leader in the Belgian Congo, was convicted on three counts of hijacking. The judge ordered that 10 years of the 20-year sentence run concurrently, which effectively gave Hoare 10 years in jail.
Hoare's deputy in the coup attempt, Tullio Moneta, 32, a South African, was sentenced to five years on each of two charges of hijacking, but one of the sentences was suspended for five years.
Briton Peter Duffy, 40, and Pieter Doorewaard, 28, a South African, also will serve an effective five years in prison.
Three mercenaries will serve a total of 2 years jail: Briton Michael Webb, 32, Kenneth Dalgleish, 32, of South Africa and Zimbabwean Charles Goatley, 27.
Another South African, Vernon Prinsloo, 31, was given five year terms on each of two charges against him, but will serve an effective 12 months in jail.
The judge sentenced the remaining 34 mercenaries to five years jail, but suspended 4 years in each case and the men will effectively be jailed for 6-month prison terms.
Two of the 45 who flew to Durban after the coup bid, turned state's evidence and the lone American, Charles Dukes was acquited.