An Italian businessman will pay $3,500 to charity for playing a joke on board an Aer Lingus flight that caused an Ebola scare and triggered a major security alert at Dublin Airport.
The Irish Independent reports IT company director Roberto Binaschi, 56, wrote “Attenzione Ebola” on a coffee cup lid as a joke to his daughter during a flight from Milan to Dublin on Thursday.
Cabin crew later found the cup and reported it, triggering an emergency lockdown of the plane upon landing. The plane’s 142 passengers were held on board while medical screenings were conducted.
Binaschi, his wife,51, and his daughter, 23, were all arrested and brought to Ballymun Garda station, according to the Irish Times. The women were later released without charge, but Binaschi was held overnight and brought before Dublin District Court on Friday morning.
Defense solicitor Michelle Finan said the Binaschi, who was traveling to Ireland for a conference, scribbled the note as a joke because when he took a sip from his daughter's cup, she told him: "Your germs are all over my cup now."
His daughter finished the coffee and the cup was handed to a male flight attendant to throw away. Binaschi’s wife was asleep when it happened.
Finan said Binaschi was a man of good standing in his own community, a company director whose company traded with Ireland and hoped to “create jobs.” She pleaded with the court to spare him a criminal record.
Judge Anthony Halpin called Binaschi’s prank a “sick joke” and compared it to a bomb scare.
Binaschi pleaded guilty to using threatening, abusive or insulting behavior on an airplane contrary to the Air Navigation and Transport Act.
“Never again in my life, will I treat such subjects with such a superficial attitude in a public space,” he told the court, via an interpreter.
He apologized and offered to pay €2,500 to charity.
Judge Halpin directed that the money should go to Capuchin Day Centre, which helps homeless people in Dublin. He applied the Probation Offenders Act, sparing the Italian businessman a criminal record and a possible prison sentence.
"I cannot think of a more serious offense given the present fear of Ebola,” said the judge.
“I was just thinking, how serious is this offense? It is only comparable with someone writing on a napkin, ‘there is a bomb on the plane’, that is how serious.”