British teenager not facing ‘£100,000’ fine over Snapchat joke

20 February 2024
What was claimed

An 18-year-old British teenager faces a £100,000 fine because of a joke on Snapchat that led to air force fighter jets scrambling the plane he was on.

Our verdict

This isn’t correct. Although he did face a fine of this amount if found guilty, Aditya Verma was cleared by a Spanish court in January 2024 of public disorder, and does not need to pay a fine.

A claim that a British teenager is facing a £100,000 fine after a ‘joke’ on Snapchat led to air force fighter jets being scrambled is circulating widely on social media.

One post on Facebook uploaded on 14 February, which has also been widely shared with the same wording on X (formerly known as Twitter) on the same date, says: “An 18-year-old from Britain faces a fine of 100 thousand pounds sterling because of a joke on Snapchat. 

“Before the flight, the guy joked in a chat with friends that as soon as they boarded the flight, he would blow up the plane. 

“Since the message was left over Wi-Fi at the airport, it was quickly intercepted by intelligence agencies. After takeoff, Air Force fighters scrambled behind the plane.”

However, the claims made in the post aren't quite right.

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What happened in this case?

It surrounds the case of British citizen Aditya Verma, who was taken to court in Spain over a comment he made on the social media platform Snapchat in July 2022 prior to boarding a flight to Menorca with friends. He was 18 at the time and has since been acquitted.

In the message to a private group chat, sent before Mr Verma boarded his flight, he reportedly wrote: “On my way to blow up the plane (I'm a member of the Taliban).”

Two Spanish F-18 fighter jets were sent to flank the aircraft after British security services flagged the message to the Spanish authorities. However, nothing was found on board to suggest it was a real threat.

Mr Verma’s trial over a charge of public disorder—not terrorism charges—took place in January, 2024, in Madrid. He told the court the message was “a joke in a private group setting”.

If found guilty he was facing a fine of up to €22,500 (around £19,300) as well as €95,000 (£81,000) in expenses, totalling around £100,000.

On 25 January a judge in the National Court cleared Mr Verma of the charge of public disorder, meaning he has no fine to pay. The posts we are fact checking here were published after this.

Although the posts mention Gatwick’s Wi-Fi, it’s not known exactly how the messages were intercepted by British intelligence.

Misleading claims like these can cause unreliable information to spread quickly on social media. We’ve previously checked misreporting of legal cases, including an alleged ban of halal slaughter in France, and a false claim that not paying your TV licence can land you in prison.

Image courtesy of Leo Reynolds

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